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December 10, 2019

SHC sets aside extension of agriculture varsity VC’s tenure as unlawful

Karachi

December 10, 2019

The Sindh High Court on Monday set aside last year’s extension of the tenure of the Sindh Agriculture University’s vice chancellor, observing that terms and conditions of such an extension had to be decided by the cabinet, not by the chief minister by bypassing the provincial cabinet.

The judgment came at a petition of Riyasat Ali and others, who sought writ of quo warranot against the extension of the tenure of the vice chancellor, Dr Mujeebuddin Memon, for a further term of four years through a notification on April 10, 2018, on behalf of the governor as chancellor of the university.

The petitioners’ counsel, Ali Asadullah Bullo, submitted that the vice chancellor of an agriculture university should necessarily be an agriculturist, whereas the vice chancellor of the university was a mechanical engineer by qualification and hence not eligible.

He submitted that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had imposed a ban on recruitment in all government organisations with effect from April 1, 2018, and therefore the extension of the respondent as vice chancellor on April 10, 2018 was unlawful.

The vice chancellor’s counsel, Mohammad Arshad Pathan, submitted that the Sindh Agriculture University Act, 1977, did not require that the vice chancellor should have the credentials of an agriculturist as the respondent was a mechanical engineer by qualification and previously a professor at the Mehran Engineering University.

He stated that the petitioner’s objection to the qualification of the respondent in the field of mechanical engineering had no relevance and was a misconception as the said subject/discipline was central to agricultural engineering and the Sindh Agriculture University had devoted an entire faculty to agricultural engineering.

He further said that the initial appointment of the vice chancellor in 2014 was made after a transparent process by a selection committee and the extension of his tenure was made on the basis of his performance; besides, the notification of the extension had been issued prior the ECP’s ban on recruitment.

He further contended that the respondent had been appointed vice chancellor initially for a term of four years under Section 27(1) of the Sindh Agriculture University Act, 1977, as amended by the Sindh Universities Laws (Amendment) Act, 2013, and that provision had empowered the chancellor to extend the tenure for one more term. He submitted that the first tenure of the respondent was to expire on May 2, 2018; therefore, the impugned notification on April 10, 2018 issued by the chancellor extending the tenure of the respondent as vice chancellor for another term of four years was in accord with Section 3 27(1) of the Sindh Agriculture University Act, 1977 as amended by the Sindh Universities Laws (Amendment) Act, 2013.

A division bench comprising Justice Mohammad Shafi Siddiqui and Justice Adnan Iqbal Chaudhry observed that the additional secretary, the Governor’s Secretariat and the secretary of the universities and boards department filed their respective comments and it came to light that Section 27(1) of the Sindh Agriculture University Act, 1977, under which the respondent had been initially appointed vice chancellor had been materially amended by the Sindh Universities and Institutes Laws (Amendment) Act, 2014, and that the extension of the tenure of the respondent had been made under Section 27(1) of the Sindh Agriculture University Act, 1977 as amended in 2014, and not under the amended act of 2013 as had been contended by his counsel.

The court observed that the counsel of all parties and the provincial law officer were also heard on the question whether the extension was in accord with Section 27(1) of the Sindh Agriculture University Act, 1977 as amended by the Sindh Universities and Institutes Laws (Amendment) Act, 2014.

It further observed that the impugned notification for an extension of the tenure of the respondent as vice chancellor was issued pursuant toSsection 27(1) of the Sindh Agriculture University Act, 1977 as it then stood amended by the Sindh Universities and Institutes Laws (Amendment) Act, 2014, which stipulated that the vice chancellor shall be appointed by the chancellor “on the advice of government” for a period of four years which may be extended for one more term on such terms and conditions as the government may determine.

The court observed that Section 27(1) manifests that both the decision to appoint a vice chancellor and the decision to extend his tenure for one term is to be taken by the government and indeed the impugned notification also states that it is issued by the governor Sindh/chancellor on the “advice of the government”.

The bench said the summary issued on March 30, 2018, pursuant to which the impugned notification was issued shows that such advice had in fact been given to the governor/chancellor by the chief minister. It observed that the Supreme Court had already held that executive authority of the provincial government is to be exercised by the provincial cabinet as a collective entity albeit in the name of the governor and when a provincial statute such as the Sindh Agriculture University Act, 1977, provides for the exercise of executive authority by the provincial government, that is to be done and the decision for that has to be taken by the cabinet and not by the chief minister alone.

The court stated that having seen that the word government in Section 27(1) of the Sindh Agriculture University Act, 1977, as it stood amended at the relevant time by the Sindh Universities and Institutes Laws (Amendment) Act, 2014, could only mean the cabinet; therefore, the decision to extend the tenure of the respondent as vice chancellor for another term and the terms and conditions of such an extension had to be taken by the cabinet and not by the chief minister alone.

The court allowed the petition by declaring that the notification of April 10, 2018, extending the tenure of the respondent as vice chancellor of the Sindh Agriculture University was issued without lawful authority. It set aside the notification.

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