Report by Dr. S Chatterjee Viewpoint March 2019
BRIEF REPORT ON ONE-DAY CONSULTATIVE WORKSHOP OF STAKEHOLDERS ON “PROFESSIONAL ENGINEERS BILL”
A meeting was called by AICTE on February 11th, 2019 at their headquarters in Delhi to hold a One-Day Consultative Workshop of Stakeholders on “Professional Engineers Bill”. The persons on the dais included Prof. Surendra Prasad – Ex-Director IIT Delhi, Prof. Sandeep Sancheti – VC SRM University Chennai, Dr. M P Poonia – VCM AICTE, Prof. Rajive Kumar – Advisor AICTE. The meeting was attended by a large number of persons from professional associations and other stakeholders.
The effort of the engineering fraternity to regulate the profession through the Engineers Bill has had a long journey, and over the past decade and more it has been piloted by the Engineering Council of India (ECI), which was specifically created for the purpose. The last version of the draft Bill titled “The Indian Council of Engineers Act – 2011” when presented to the nodal ministry, the MHRD, the MHRD advised that the engineering profession could be regulated through a private initiative and did not require the enactment of a Bill at this stage. On this basis ECI started registering engineers through its member associations.
However, it was mentioned at the workshop, that the MHRD had been receiving letters from Mr. E. Sreedharan stating that there is an urgent need to regulate the profession with an Engineers Bill through the Act of Parliament. This was stated as the reason for the revival of the effort to enact the Bill and AICTE has been appointed by the MHRD to drive the initiative.
A draft document prepared by AICTE titled “Professional Engineer Bill 2019” was circulated for discussions. There were many views voiced by the members of the audience and a response was also presented by ECI that comprehensively summarises the issues, an excerpt of which is given below:
- As the Bill is to set up a ‘Council of Engineers’, the composition of the Council should be given in the main Bill, and not in Annexure. Secondly, all members of Council should have same status. It is only procedural matter that some are nominated by government bodies and some are nominated by professional societies. There is no need to introduce another term ‘Professional Associates’.
- The Council should be supreme and autonomous. It should appoint or elect the Board of Governors (BOG) which should be answerable to the Council. Here the BOG has been given over-riding powers, powers to oversee the functioning of the Council and take all actions in the name of the Council.
- The BOG is heavily weighted in favour of government and IIT/ NIT nominees. There are only 2 representatives of professional societies. There should be equal number of the representatives from these bodies. The deliberations of the BOG will be technical and professional in nature. These would require a professional head.
- There is no clarity on division of functions between BOG and EC (Clause 7.3).
- There are too many procedural details included in several clauses. An Act normally leaves these details to the Rules and Regulations as these may need to be amended from time to time. What will be covered by Rules (to be formulated by Government) and by Regulations (to be formulated by the Council) should be stated in the Bill.
- The main purpose of the Act is stated ‘that engineering activities are performed by qualified persons and in a manner, which facilitates sustainable development and ensures safety and welfare of the people. Thus it should ensure that the key engineering practice is undertaken only by registered PEs and other than PEs should be debarred. Such ‘Practice’ which only PEs can undertake, has to be defined separately. Clause 5 gives a very general definition. The engineering practice can be divided into two parts:
- Which only PEs are authorized to do – such as certification of any design, process, system, works, project, supervision of project management, etc. They will thus take the responsibility for design, works, etc.
- Which engineers other than PEs can do, such as assisting PEs, undertaking preliminary design/ project activities, not involving certification.
- While debarring those not registered as PEs, the Act should specify the penalties if non-registered engineers undertake the ‘practice’ exclusively reserved for PEs. This could include monetary fines and imprisonment.
- There should be the mention of how and by whom disciplinary action will be taken in case registered PEs do not follow code of ethics or indulge in unscrupulous activities.
- The Council should be authorized to specify the engineering disciplines in which candidates can be registered as PEs.
- As per Clause 8.1.5, only members of licensed members can be registered by them as PEs. This is discriminatory clause and should be removed. Any one applying for registration and meeting the criteria should be considered as per procedure.
- In Clause 9 – The council has also been empowered to recognize support by an individual to the council, and call that individual an “Associate of the Council”. The need for this clause is not understood.
- Draft Professional Engineer Bill – 2019, prepared by AICTE
- Draft The Indian Council of Engineers Act – 2011, prepared by Engineering Council of India