KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Tuesday directed the provincial law officer to advance arguments on the legality of the controversial Sindh Universities and Institutes Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018 which empowers the chief minister to control the public sector universities in the province instead of the governor.

A two-judge bench, headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar, passed this direction on a petition filed by a non-governmental organisation and political outfit, Pasban, challenging the controversial bill, and fixed the matter for Dec 18.

When the matter came up for hearing, the bench members expressed their displeasure over the failure of the provincial law officer to submit a copy of the draft of the law despite issuance of directives on the last date. Briefly adjourning the matter, the judges told the law officer to submit the draft.

Food authority directed to provide a copy of the report on death of two minor brothers

Later, the law officer submitted a copy of the draft of the law. The bench asked him to advance arguments on the law on the next date.

In the petition, it was 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.

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 had 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.

Restaurant owner moves court

The same bench told the director for operations of the Sindh Food Authority to provide a copy of the report regarding the cause of death of two minor brothers allegedly from food poisoning after dining out at a restaurant in the Defence Housing Authority.

The direction came on a petition filed by the owner of Arizona Grill restaurant, who moved the court against the provincial food authority for allegedly running a campaign against the restaurant in the media without determination of the cause of death of the minors.

During the hearing of the plea, the authority’s chairman Abrar Shaikh appeared before the court. He submitted that a report on the chemical analysis of the food samples taken from the restaurant was due on Nov 25 upon which an inquiry would be initiated against those found responsible for violation of the rules under the Sindh Food Authority Act.

He further submitted that the restaurant was sealed after the incident took place and added that the frozen meat, which had expired in 2015, was also found in the godown of the restaurant. However, the bench members asked the officer why he had given remarks in the media against the restaurant, as alleged by the petitioner’s counsel, before the report on the actual cause of death was prepared. He was restrained from making such remarks until the report was prepared.

The petitioner’s counsel submitted that his client had voluntarily closed the restaurant following the incident and added that the expired meat was just kept in the godown as a sample and it was not meant to be served to the customers.

The counsel further contended that food authority officials had made a video of the raid on the restaurant and started a campaign against the petitioner’s business by deliberately sharing the video with the media.

The court was pleaded to restrain SFA officials from running such a campaign.

Published in Dawn, November 21st, 2018