LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Thursday ordered the removal of acting vice-chancellors of four public sector universities in the province. It instructed the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to fill the posts purely in accordance with the law within one month.
Justice Shahid Karim of the LHC ordered that acting VCs, including Dr Mujahid Karman of Punjab University, Dr Sara Shahid of Lahore College for Women University, Dr Nazir Sultana of Sargodha University and Dr Fazal Ahmed of Nawaz Sharif Engineering University, Multan should be removed from the posts within seven days and charge should be given to the senior most professors of the respective universities. It is worth mentioning that Dr Fazal is permanent VC of University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore and was given the additional charge of Nawaz Sharif University vice-chancellor.
The court also declared the process of appointing the VCs by the Higher Education Department as illegal. It directed the HEC to devise a criteria separately for every university and make separate search committees for all universities to fill the seats.
The LHC directed the HEC to initiate the process of making these appointments within one month and issue fresh advertisements for the purpose. The court maintained that the post of a VC cannot be filled for an indefinite period on a temporary basis.
The court declared that part of Section 14 of the Punjab University Act 1973 also gave powers to the Punjab government to appoint VCs.
It is pertinent to mention that the court had stayed the process of making these appointments on December 11, 2015, after different petitions were filed by separate identical petitioners through Advocate Saad Rasool. The higher education department had issued a notification prescribing criteria for vice-chancellors in 11 universities of Punjab on April 7, 2015. On March 3, last year, the higher education department constituted VCs search committees to recommend candidates for appointments.
Advocate Saad, appearing before the court, submitted that the higher education department did not have the authority to issue the advertisement, constitute a committee and prescribe criteria for VCs as these matters lay in the ambit of the HEC. He asked the court to direct the respondents to restart the selection process.
While speaking to The Express Tribune, Saad said the incumbent VC of the Punjab University, Dr Mujahid Kamran, is no longer qualified to even apply for the post. He said according to the legal provisions, a person above 65 years of age cannot apply for the post and he crossed the age limit in February 2016.
Meanwhile, officials close to Kamran told The Express Tribune that they would challenge the decision before the Supreme Court. Mujahid Kamran was appointed PU vice-chancellor for four years in January 2008 and then for another four years in January 2012. His second term expires on January 22, 2016.
The senior most professor of the University of Punjab is Prof Dr Muhammad Taqi Zahid Butt, who is serving as Department of Metallurgy & Materials Engineering dean. He had also served as acting vice-chancellor previously when the VC was out of the country.
Standing Committee on Education Chairperson MPA Qamarul Islam Raja told The Express Tribune that after the 18th Constitutional Amendment, provinces were given powers to look after the affairs of education. However, the government would accept the court’s verdict,” she concluded.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 2nd, 2016.
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