The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to shut down illegal campuses of private universities in the country.

Preston University and Al Khair University had set up illegal campuses in Karachi and Lahore and students had approached the court about the HEC not issuing degrees from the aforementioned campuses.

A three-member bench headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial heard the case.

The court directed the HEC to award degrees to the students who had passed out from illegal campuses through some special arrangement. It said that uniform implementation of the HEC's policies should be ensured throughout the country.

The bench remarked that no compromise could be made on the provision of higher education to the young generation and the federal and provincial governments should fully cooperate to maintain HEC's standards.

The apex court noted that the issue before it was whether private universities could set up sub-campuses outside their territorial limits or not, adding that the HEC had already clarified that they could not do so and issued many alerts in this regard.

The HEC's view was that cooperation of the federal and provincial governments was essential to end illegal activities and yet they had not cooperated, the court pointed out.

Ali Zafar, counsel for the students, said the court had ordered the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to pursue action against private universities. At this, Justice Bandial responded: "The HEC has the powers. There is no need for NAB to investigate the matter."

The judge said if the HEC was "weak" then the federal government would be ordered to amend the laws.

"The students had approached the Lahore High Court (LHC) for their degrees. The LHC declared the [sub-]campuses of private universities illegal," the counsel said.

Justice Bandial remarked that the LHC had given the correct verdict based on facts.

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