ISLAMABAD: The Punjab Higher Education Commission’s (PHEC) authority to appoint vice chancellors in the public sector universities has been called into question in a letter sent to the secretary of the Specialized Healthcare and Medical Education.
In a letter, Advocate Ch Tajamal Nawaz stated that the federal legislature has the exclusive authority for making law in relation to higher education which includes the fixation of the criteria and standards for the appointment of the faculty of all institutions providing higher education in the province.
Since, the 18th amendment in April 2010 and devolution of the education sector to provinces, higher education seems in a grave crisis across the country. “We on behalf of our client hereby intimate your kind self that the titled civil appeals regarding the appointment of vice chancellors in public sector universities was fixed before the Supreme Court whereby the apex court vide order dated 9.10.2017 granted the leave to consider the important questions of interpretation of the constitution and in this regard also issued notices to the Attorney General of Pakistan and Advocate General Punjab,” the letter reads.
“Keeping in view the pendency of the list before the SC any further action on the subject will amount to contempt of court as being prejudicial to the whole case pending before the court and will attract Article 204 of the constitution,” the letter reads.
It is pertinent to mention here that the Punjab Higher Education Commission’s authority was challenged but then the Lahore High Court ruled that provincial government has complete powers to make rules and appoint VCs as long as they match the requirements set by the HEC.
The letter further reads that reference in this regard has been made to Articles 142 and 142 (a) of the constitution to urge that the impingement judgment by developing the concept of concurrent jurisdiction of the federal legislature and the provincial assemblies on the principle of cooperative federalism and on the basis that the concept of the education also covers higher education, and on that premises there is an unwritten residuary power resting with the provinces is absolutely misconceived.
“It is also submitted that once it is clear that according to Entry No 12, the exclusive authority to legislate on all matters in relation to higher education rests with the parliament and the federal government, then any law such as the Public Sector Universities (Amendment) Act, 2012 and the Punjab Higher Education Commission Act, 2014 enforced by the province is beyond their legislative competence and therefore, ultra vires of the constitution,” it added.
It is further argued that the view expressed by the division bench of the Lahore High Court in the impugned judgment about the role of the Council of Common Interests is violative of the ratio of the law laid down by this court in the judgment reported as Messrs Gadoon Textile Mills and 814.
The devolution of HEC has not been addressed appropriately yet because of incompetent authorities involved in the process causing more scuffle between federal and provincial HECs. After 18th amendment, all the provincial governments were required to make their HECs, but so far only Sindh and Punjab have been able to make their commissions, while Balochistan and Pakhtunkhwa have yet to make their commissions.