The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled against the much-debated devolution of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and directed the commission to continue functioning until further notice.
A three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, also nullified the federal government’s previous notification issued on March 31 regarding the HEC’s devolution.
Attorney-General Maulvi Anwarul Haq told the court that the government was still contemplating the HEC’s devolution. He said the fresh legislation is being made and all stakeholders will be taken on board before the matter is decided.
The AGP also affirmed the court’s ruling that the HEC’s status is covered under the Higher Education Commission Ordinance 2002 and hence cannot be devolved under the 18th amendment. However, he pleaded with the court against issuing a stay order against the government’s notification as it will hinder the legislative processes.
Lauding the role of the HEC and its founding chief Dr Attaur Rehman, the chief justice stressed that education is the backbone of any country and the role of such commissions should not be undermined.
Senator Azam Khan Swati said that higher education should be prioritised as it is directly related to the country’s development. He said that the government’s decision to devolve the HEC was “against the spirit of the 18th amendment”.
Member of the National Assembly Marvi Memon said that the government’s lawyer had admitted before the court that the HEC “could not be touched without bringing in new legislation”.
Petitioners have argued that the subject of higher education falls under the federation’s jurisdiction and should not be affected after the 18th amendment’s promulgation. But the government had deemed the HEC’s devolution as necessary and issued a notification to this effect on March 31.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 13th, 2011.
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