Smriti Irani’s ministry wanted to tinker with IIT Act, idea disapproved by law ministry

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A day after Smriti Irani was widely criticised for having requested for inclusion of Sanskrit in the IIT curriculum, it has emerged that the the HRD Ministry’s proposal to tinker with the current IIT Act had been rejected by the Union Law Ministry.

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A report in the Indian Express said that Law Ministry had disapproved of a proposal made by the HRD Ministry to move an amendment to IIT Act, empowering the Centre to establish new institutes without seeking Parliament’s approval every time.

According to the report, Irani’s ministry had recently circulated a note seeking the Cabinet’s sanction for introducing a clause in the law by which the government could set up a new IIT by just adding its name under the proposed ‘Schedule 2’, instead of amending the Act.

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As per current provisions, the Centre does not need the Parliament’s nod to tweak the Schedule of an Act. It can be done with the Cabinet’s approval.

The law ministry reportedly raised its objection to the idea arguing that the power to establish an “institute of national importance” was the sole prerogative of the Parliament and it could not be delegated to the Centre.

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A source in law ministry told the paper, “It may not be desirable to provide power to central government to amend schedules to IIT Act to establish new IITs as the essential power to declare institutes as institutes of national importance (INI) needs to be exercised by Parliament and not by subordinate legislation.”

However an HRD ministry official was quoted as saying, “Our argument (in response to Law Ministry’s objection) is that we are not bypassing the House. Any change to the Schedule of an Act will have to eventually go to Parliament for final approval. So Parliament continues to be in the driving seat,” said an HRD official.

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The HRD ministry reportedly justified it stand arguing that it would reduce the legislative burden of Parliament and the government.

The PMO too is believed to have sided with the HRD ministry’s idea and has asked the Cabinet note to be sent back to the Law Ministry for its concurrence.

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