HEC, not provincial govt, empowered to appoint VCs: LHC

Acting VCs of four varsities including PU removed

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday removed acting vice-chancellors (VCs) of four public sector universities of Punjab, including the Punjab University’s acting VC Dr Mujahid Kamran, and directed the chancellor to appoint the senior-most professors as acting VCs within seven days till the appointment of permanent VCs.

While accepting the writ petition filed by Dr Aurangzeb Alamgir of the Punjab University through Advocate Saad Rasool, Justice Shahid Karim also struck down the process initiated by the Higher Education Department for the appointment of VCs at four public sector universities of the province with direction to the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan to initiate the entire process afresh in 30 days, ruling that HED had no power under the relevant provisions to initiate the process of  appointment, which rests with the HEC.

The court ordered that the acting VCs Dr Mujahid Kamran 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 within seven days from their posts and charge be given to theprofessor of the respective universities. Dr Fazal is permanent VC of University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore, and was given additional charge of post of VC of Nawaz Sharif University, Multan. The court also declared the process to appoint the VCs by Higher Education Department Punjab as illegal and directed the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan to devise the criteria separately for every university and make separate VC search committees for all universities to fill the seats of the heads.

The court directed the HEC to initiate the process of making these appointments within one month and give advertisement in this regard afresh. The court held that post of a VC could not be filled temporarily for an indefinite period. The court also declared part of Section 14 of Punjab University Act 1973 illegal, which empowered the Punjab government to make appointment of the VC. The court had stayed the process of making these appointments on December 11, 2015, on the petition of Dr Aurangzeb Alaimgir. The petitioner’s counsel Saad Rasool and Anum Saeed argued that the Higher Education Department Punjab had issued a notification prescribing criteria for vice-chancellors of 11 universities of Punjab on April 7 last year. On March 03 last year, the HED had made VCs search committees to recommend candidates for appointment. Saad Rasool pointed out that according to the legal provisions, the HED did not have the authority to issue the advertisement, constitute a committee and prescribe criteria for the VCs as these matters lay in the ambit of the Higher Education Commission Pakistan. He asked the court to direct the respondents to restart the selection process afresh in accordance with the Higher Education Department Act, and the Punjab Higher Education Commission Act. Saad said a non-PhD candidate was also eligible to apply for the post of the VC but such persons had been excluded outrightly from the process.

 He prayed to the court to declare the advertisement for the post of VC, criteria and search committee formed by the HED as illegal and unconstitutional.  He also prayed to the court to direct the respondents to carry out the process for search, selection and appointment of the VC of PU afresh, in accordance with the mandate of Constitution, the Higher Education Department Act, and Punjab Higher Education Commission Act.   Mujahid Kamran was appointed PU vice-chancellor for four years in January 2008 and then for another four-year term in January of 2012. His second term expired on January 22, 2016. The senior most professor of the University of Punjab is Prof Dr Muhammad Taqi Zahid Butt, dean, Department of Metallurgy and Materials Engineering, who has also served as acting vice-chancellor previously when the VC was out of the country.

The counsel requested the court to direct the government to appoint the VCs in accordance with the law and observe merit. Talking to The News, Saad Rasool said incumbent PU VC Dr Mujahid Kamran was no more qualified for applying for the post as he had crossed the upper age limit of 65 years for applying for the VC post.