ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC), Wednesday, restrained the federal government from appointing a new chairman of the Higher Education Commission (HEC).
A single bench of Chief Justice Athar Minallah heard the petition filed by 15 eminent scholars and educationists against the Higher Education Commission (Amendment) Ordinance, 2021 and Higher Education Commission (Second Amendment) Ordinance, 2021, and the removal of Tariq Banuri as the chairman of the commission.
The IHC bench restrained the government from appointing a new chairman until June 8th and issued notices to the secretaries Cabinet Division, Law, Education, the HEC, and the former HEC chairman, and directed them to submit their reply in this matter.
The petitioners including Mosharraf Ali Zaidi, Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy, Dr M Asif Khan, Syed Ahmed Masood, Dr AH Nayyar, Dr Naazish Attaullah, Salima Hashm and others, moved the court through Faisal Siddiqui Advocate.
They stated in the petition that to the shock and horror of the petitioners, the Respondent No 3 (Federal Ministry of Education and Professional Training) clearly acting in a malafide manner on the dictates of the present Federal government suggested amendments in the Ordinance, 2002, on the ridiculous pretext that “in [the] post-Covid era, the paradigm of Higher Education System and its delivery mode has undergone tremendous changes,” and furthermore that the process and criteria of tenure appointments need to be reviewed in order to “keep pace with the changing eco-system of 21st century skills”.
They submitted that the aforementioned stated purpose was floating with malafides and as explained below, the amendments suggested in the Ordinance, 2002 had the consequence of malafidely removing the Respondent No 6 (Tariq Banuri) as the chairperson of the HEC (although the text of the First Impugned Ordinance does not support such intention) in order to destroy the autonomous nature of the HEC which was fundamentally safeguarded by the security of tenure of the Respondent No 6 and the members of the HEC.
The counsel for the petitioners said the tenure of the appointment had also been reduced while the terms used in the ordinance were also for specific objectives.
He added that the HEC chairman can only be dismissed under the sub-section 6 [of the regulations].
Therefore, he prayed before the court to permanently restrain the respondents from again removing Dr Tariq Banuri from his tenure post of four years as chairperson of the HEC during his tenure of four years ending on 29-5-2022 (plus the entire time period during which he was illegally removed) and also permanently restrain the respondents from appointing any other person as chairperson of the HEC during the tenure of Banuri ending on 29-5-2022 (plus the entire time period during which he was illegally removed).
Banuri was appointed at the post by former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in May 2018 and he was to complete his tenure in May 2022.
On March 27, the present government had announced the removal of Dr Tariq Banuri as the chairman of the HEC with immediate effect.
A notification issued by the Cabinet Secretariat read, “In terms of sub-section (5), read with sub-section (5A), of Section 6 of HEC Ordinance, 2002, as amended vide HEC (Amendment) Ordinance, 2021, Dr Tariq Banuri has ceased to be the chairperson, HEC forthwith and is accordingly removed from the said post with immediate effect.”
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021