Punjab University wants no ‘king’, yet

Move to enhance vice chancellor’s powers withdrawn from agenda after teachers protest .

Abdul Manan December 19, 2010

LAHORE: The Punjab University (PU) administration has been forced to temporarily withdraw an effort to transfer significant disciplinary powers to the vice chancellor, Dr Mujahid Kamran, after teachers protested that it would make him “king of the university”.

The administration wanted the issue discussed at Saturday’s meeting of the PU Syndicate. A copy of the agenda for the meeting is available with The Express Tribune. Item no 6 reads: “delegation of powers to VC to proceed against any accused officer/teacher, initiate disciplinary action/show cause notice, or to constitute inquiry committee for speedy justice.”

Ahead of the meeting, members of the PU Academic Staff Association (ASA) protested in front of the vice chancellor’s office to denounce the proposal that Dr Kamran be given some of the powers of the Syndicate as defined in the Punjab Employees Efficiency, Discipline and Accountability (PEEDA) Act 2006.

PU Additional Registrar Aurangzeb Alamgir said that the proposal had been withdrawn from the agenda for the Syndicate’s 1685th meeting “in the interest of the university”. It was not clear if the item would be introduced in the agenda for the next meeting. Alamgir said that the university would consult its legal advisor on its future course.

Professor Mehar Saeed Akhtar, who recently stepped down as ASA president ahead of the body’s upcoming elections, welcomed the withdrawal of the agenda item. “If PEEDA powers are shifted from the Syndicate to the vice chancellor, then Dr Mujahid Kamran will become king of the varsity. He will be able to use the powers against faculty members who refuse to bow before him,” he said.Under the PU Act of 1973, the Syndicate is the sole body empowered to suspend, punish and sack university employees. Sections 5(a) and 7 of PEEDA empower the Syndicate to issue show cause notices and take disciplinary action against employees.

According to the agenda of the meeting, the argument for transferring these powers to the vice chancellor was that the Syndicate met infrequently. Sometimes swift disciplinary action was required against an employee, but the vice chancellor could not act in the absence of the Syndicate.

In the four years since PEDA was enacted, the PU Syndicate used Section 7 for the first time only last month, to serve show cause notices to three professors.

PU Legal Advisor Shahzad Shaukat said there had been a lot of confusion in the university over the use of PEEDA and previous rules such as the Efficiency and Disciplinary (E&D) Rules of 1975 and the Punjab Removal from Service Ordinance (PRSO) 2000.

Before PEEDA was enacted, the Syndicate was using the E&D rules in taking disciplinary action against university employees rather than the ordinance, which was a violation of at least four Supreme Court rulings, he said.

PEEDA overrides both the E&D rules of 1975 and the 2000 ordinance, he said.

Dr Kamran told The Express Tribune that he did not intend to transfer PEEDA powers to himself and he felt comfortable working under the 1975 rules and the ordinance.

At Saturday’s meeting on the New Campus, the Syndicate also approved the appointment of chairmen to six university departments and directors to two institutes and confirmed the proceedings of its last two meetings.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 19th, 2010.


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