ISLAMABAD: Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday issued a stay order against the appointment of the new chairman of the Higher Education Commission (HEC).

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah was hearing a petition filed by a number of eminent academicians, right activists and scholars against the promulgation of HEC Ordinance that reduced the term of chairman from four to two years and ‘curbed’ its autonomy.

After hearing the arguments, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah issued notices to the secretaries Cabinet Division and Law and Justice as well as former HEC chairman Tariq Banuri and adjourned the hearing till June 8.

The court restrained the federal government from appointing a new HEC chairman till the said date.

The petitioners in this case are Javed Jabbar, Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy, Mosharraf Ali Zaidi, Prof Dr M. Asif Khan, Syed Ahmed Masood, Prof Dr A. H. Nayyar, Prof Dr Naazish Attaullah, Prof Salima Hashmi, Khawar Mumtaz, Dr Rubina Saigol, former Pakistan Bar Council vice chairmanAbid Hussain Saqi, Karamat Ali, Nazim Fida Hussain Haji, Prof Dr Syed Tipu Sultan and Mohammad Tahseen.

The present government had de-notified HEC chairman Tariq Banuri after promulgation of the ordinance.

Advocate Faisal Siddiqui contended that the notifications issued in pursuance of the presidential ordinance were flawed.

He said the Ordinance did not apply to the vested right of tenure of Banuri at all. Secondly, the mere fact that his appointment was notified through a notification dated May 29, 2018 is merely an executive action and it is not that notification itself which creates and confers the right of the security of tenure of four years upon Banuri.

The petition stated that the Ordinance did not lead to the conclusion that it took away the vested rights of the former HEC chief, adding that the government authorities misinterpreted the law and curtailed the tenure of Banuri from four to two years.

According to the petition, it is a settled principle that laws should be saved through the process of interpretation including the principle of reading down especially if reading of the statutory text leads to violation of fundamental rights including the right of non-discrimination. Even if the interpretation is accepted, it is in contradiction of Article 25 of the Constitution.

Published in Dawn, June 3rd, 2021

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