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ISLAMABAD: Expre­ssing concern over the mushroom growth of private higher education institutions in the country, the Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the Higher Educa­tion Commission (HEC) to furnish a comprehensive report enumerating rules and regulation for awarding charter to such institutions.

A three-judge SC bench headed by Justice Gulzar Ahmed, which had taken up a case relating to award of degrees by Al-Khair University, also sought an explanation from Attorney General Anwar Mansoor as to why the government was not taking interest in containing the mushrooming of the private higher education institutions.

“Why is the government not taking any serious interest and not realising the fact that our entire educational sector is going down day by day?” Justice Ahmed regretted and asked if there was any rule to regularise such educational institutions. He said the situation would not improve with the Supreme Court hearing cases or sending these matters to the National Accountability Bureau or the Federal Investigation Agency. Rather, he added, the government had to do something seriously for arresting the downward drift.

Justice Ahmed also cited a case in which he discovered a university in Sindh affiliated with a college situated in Faisalabad, Punjab. “The private sector is simply minting money by selling degrees while the entire generation is being spoiled, in addition to bringing a bad name to the country,” Justice Ahmed bemoaned, adding that one entire peer group had been destroyed while another was next in line.

Apex court expresses concern over government failure to conduct audit of DHA accounts

Justice Ahmed also recalled that he saw a large billboard of a private university on Tariq Road in Karachi, although the main campus of the same university was located in Kohat, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The court regretted that what Al-Khair University was doing was similar to what Axact call centres did.

DHA accounts audit

The same SC bench, while hearing a different case, expressed concern over the federal government’s failure to conduct audit of the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) and regretted that the authority was becoming a state within the state.

The court had taken up a petition seeking review of its September 2015 order in which it had held that the DHA’s claim that its accounts could not be scrutinised was unjustified. The court had also ordered the auditor general of Pakistan to audit the DHA accounts.

At the outset of the hearing, senior counsel Khalid Jawed Khan, representing the DHA, sought time, saying he had been engaged only last evening.

At this, Justice Qazi Faez Isa inquired whether the counsel believed in transparency and whether by not obeying the court order, the authority was not committing the contempt of court.

The judge also sought a categorical reply from the counsel whether the audit of the DHA should be conducted or not.

The counsel explained that he was not in a position to offer any categorical answer since he had not gone through the entire case record, but assured the court that he would definitely assist it after going through the entire law.

At this, Justice Isa again asked about the hesitation in implementing the court directive and what harm would come if the DHA accounts were audited.

Justice Gulzar Ahmed also regretted by asking why the judiciary had to intervene in matters all the time and wondered whether the judiciary was an alternative to the government. “Has the government been handed over to the Supreme Court?” he asked.

Published in Dawn, March 15th, 2019