KARACHI: The Supreme Court has allowed a search committee, reconstituted and notified on March 25 after enactment of a provincial law, to continue its working for the appointment of the next vice chancellor of Karachi University.

The apex court also asked the search committee not to influence by any adverse remarks made in an impugned judgement of the Sindh High Court that led to the removal of Prof Dr Khalid Mahmood Iraqi from the post of acting VC.

A two-judge SC bench comprising Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Yahya Afridi took up for hearing a set of petitions filed by the Sindh government as well as Dr Iraqi against the Jan 26 judgement of the SHC on May 30 at the principal seat of Supreme Court in Islamabad.

The apex court in its interim order stated that the impugned order of SHC was suspended till next hearing, adding that since the order in question was passed by a two-judge SHC bench, it would be appropriate if such petitions were fixed before a three-judge SC bench after 15 days.

Suspends SHC’s Jan 26 order till next hearing

The Sindh government through the secretary of the universities and boards department filed four petitions in the apex court challenging the SHC order while Dr Iraqi had also approached the apex court against the ruling.

Additional Advocate General (AAG-Sindh) Suresh Kumar and counsel for Dr Iraqi Ravi Pinjani argued that developments subsequent to the passing of the impugned order had taken place, which was enacting of the Sindh Constitution of the Search Committee Act 2022 and issuance of a notification on March 20 thereunder constituting a search committee for appointment of a suitable VC for KU.

They contended that there was no law governing the matter of the search committee when the impugned order was passed and now pursuant to the Act and the notification, the mechanism for selection of a candidate had been provided.

Therefore, they maintained that the impugned order would no longer be applicable as it stood supplanted by the law.

Representing Prof Dr Mohammad Ahmed Qadri and others, who were among the petitioners in SHC, Advocate Hafiz Arfat Ahmed submitted that while such a proposition might have been correct, but the impugned order of SHC was passed on the basis of a judgement of the Supreme Court in the case of Dr Iqrar Muhammad Khan Vs Dr Muhammad Ashraf reported in 2021.

The apex court also issued notices to Prof Dr Syed Ehteshamul Haque and Prof Dr Syed Jamil Hasan Kazmi, who had also approached the SHC against the search committee.

The counsel for private parties and AAG stated that the search committee constituted pursuant to the act and the notification was working and its work should not be interrupted.

“Till the next date of hearing the impugned order is suspended and the search committee nominated and acting pursuant to the Act and the notification may continue working,” the apex court in its order said.

Dr Iraqi in his application submitted that adverse remarks were made in the impugned order against him and as the process of selecting the KU VC was under way, there remarks against him should not be considered.

When asked about the status of appointment of varsity’s senior most professor, Dr Nasira Khatoon as acting VC of KU in the light of the impugned SHC order,AAG Kumar told Dawn that the apex court’s interim order would not affect the appointment of the incumbent acting VC and she will continue till the appointment of a permanent VC.

Earlier, while deposing of a set of petitions, the SHC in its Jan 26 judgement had directed the respondents to reconstitute the search committee for the appointment of KU VC within two months and complete the process of interviews of all candidates afresh at the earliest.

After noticing serious allegations levelled against then acting VC Dr Iraqi, who had been holding the charge since 2019, the SHC had also directed the KU to forward the names of 10 senior professors of the university in accordance with its seniority list to the chief minister so that he could nominate the most senior professor in BPS-22 as acting VC in the intervening period.

The SHC had passed the order while disposing of a set of petitions filed by a number of professors and academics challenging the procedure for appointment of the KU VC.

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2022

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