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KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Wed­nes­day directed the provin­cial authorities to file com­ments on a petition against the Sindh Universities and Institutes Laws (Amend­ment) bill, 2018.

A non-governmental org­a­nisa­tion (NGO), Pas­ban, has challenged the contro­versial bill, which was later made an act, and contended that the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) based on its numerical strength managed to get the bill passed in March, empo­wering the chief minister to control the public sector universities in the province in place of the Sindh governor.

When the matter came up for hearing before a two-judge bench of SHC headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar, it directed the petitioner to attach a copy of the act with the petition.

When the bench asked the counsel for the petitioner to inform it that how this act could affect the education system, he contended that it was a politically motivated bill and alleged that the public schools’ system in the province had already collapsed and due to this controversial legislation, the universities of the province might also meet the same fate.

The bench remarked that it would look into the matter if the bill in question was found against the funda­mental rights of people. An additional advocate general contended that the legisla­tion was in accordance with the law and Constitution.

However, the bench put the provincial law officer and the respondents on notice with direction to file their comments by Oct 2.

Petitioner Altaf Shakoor maintained that 24 public universities had been affected across the province due to what he said was political and bureaucratic interference in the educa­tional institutions, claiming that the educational system had already been declining, but now the future of students looked bleaker due to the bill.

He argued that the PPP had unlawfully passed controversial amendments without a quorum and without fulfilling the lawful and constitutional forma­lities, adding that the bill had changed the functions undertaken by academic councils, such as formula­ting admission policies.

The petitioner submitted that under the bill, vice-chancellors could not take administrative decisions to run the day-to-day affairs of universities and even appointments made by VCs would be subjected to the approval of the CM and bureaucratic body.

Published in Dawn, September 6th, 2018