KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Tuesday directed the acting chairman of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to appear before it on Sept 16 to explain how the University of Karachi was allowed to launch and run a PhD programme in law without having PhDs in its law faculty.

Headed by Chief Justice Ahmed Ali M. Shaikh, a two-judge bench summoned the HEC’s acting chairman after a deputy director of the commission failed to give satisfactory replies to queries asked by the court regarding initiation of the KU’s PhD in law programme.

Expressing its dismay over the role of the HEC in the matter, the bench directed its acting chairman to appear and explain the role of the commission.

A group of PhD aspirants, including Qamar Shahzad, Saeed Shahzad and others, had petitioned the SHC stating that they had applied for admission and were called for interviews, but the interviewing panel conducted the interviews in an “unprofessional” manner and “irrelevant” questions were put to them.

SHC asked to declare the programme illegal

They submitted that they were later surprised to know that none of the five members of the panel were PhDs in the relevant field of law and none of the members were actually having knowledge or service record in the area of legal education.

They further submitted that the interviewing panel for the admissions to the PhD programme was constituted illegally as none of them was a PhD in law and on such a score alone, the panel could be termed just a formality, which meant that the desired candidates must already have been shortlisted and the petitioners might only have been called to demonstrate that a selection process was held.

The petitioners’ counsel, Nasrullah Korai, said that the KU’s PhD programme in law had ignored several directions of the Supreme Court as there should be at least three relevant full-time PhD faculty members in a department to launch a PhD programme.

The petitioners pointed out that even the dean of the faculty of law presently available with the varsity was not a PhD in law but had done PhD in social work.

The court was asked to declare the PhD in law programme of the KU as illegal.

A direction was sought for the KU administration to reconstitute the interviewing panel having relevant qualifications for conducting the interviews afresh for admissions in the programme.

The petitioners also sought a direction for the HEC chairman to compel all the universities, including KU, to appoint the dean of the faculty concerned having the qualification of PhD in the relevant field.

Notices issued on schools’ closure

The SHC on Tuesday called comments from the Sindh government on a petition challenging the closure of schools in the province following the fourth wave of the pandemic.

A two-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Shaikh, after preliminarily hearing issued notices to the chief secretary, special secretary-education and literacy department and others for Sept 15.

The petitioner had moved the SHC challenging a notification issued by the Sindh government announcing to extend the closure of schools in the province for an indefinite period due to the increase in the cases of Covid-19.

The petitioner submitted that since the advent of coronavirus pandemic the Sindh government had been issuing notifications, from time to time, for closure of educational institutions.

According to a notification issued last week, the petitioner informed the court that the schools should have reopened from Aug 20, but instead the provincial government announced their closure for an indefinite period starting from Aug 21.

The Sindh education minister had later said that schools with 100pc vaccinated staff could reopen from Aug 30.

The petitioner further submitted that the decision of closing educational institutions and holding online classes had financially overburdened the poor parents, who had to bear the additional expenses of purchasing computer devices and internet facility.

In case of private schools, the petitioner pointed out that the parents were bearing expenses of uniform and stationery despite not sending their children to school while the schools were facing difficulties in paying salaries to their staff.

The petitioner argued that instead of fulfilling its constitutional obligation of providing education the government was rather creating hurdles by keeping the schools and other educational institutions closed.

It was further argued that the coronavirus had affected all the institutions alike but while the government had fully or partially allowed other sectors to operate it had singled out the education sector for closure.

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2021

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