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February 16, 2020

Chief minister not to pass any new summary on scholarships, SHC told

Karachi

February 16, 2020

Sindh Chief Minister will not pass any new summary onwards with regard to release of funds under the education endowment fund scholarship meant for poor and orphans and all such scholarships would be dealt with by the Sukkur Institute of Business Administration (Sukkur IBA) and the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), Karachi, and regulated by the board of trustees.

The information to this effect was given to the Sindh High Court (SHC) on Saturday by the Sindh advocate general (AG). The undertaking came on a matter pertaining to the illegal grant of Rs51.95 million funds to 15 individuals under the education endowment fund scholarship meant for poor and orphans by the finance department on the direction of the CM.

Hearing a petition with regard to implementation of the child protection and orphans laws and their education, a single bench of the SHC comprising Justice Salahuddin Panwhar had observed that certain amounts of education endowment funds were released on the direction of the CM to individuals who otherwise were not falling within the category of poor and orphans under the endowment fund rules.

The high court was informed by the endowment funds additional secretary that Rs51.95 million were approved by the finance secretary on the direction of the CM despite objection by the concerned department in their summary that such a case was not covered within the ambit and criterion of the endowment fund as the persons who had applied for the scholarships were not falling within the category of poor or orphan.

The high court had ordered the chief secretary to ensure that all the illegal scholarships which were not endorsed by the education secretary and the school education endowment department shall be recovered from the parents of such kids as they did not fell within the criteria of orphans and poor.

The AG submitted that through special summaries, a sum of Rs51.95 million from the allocation was released in favour of individuals. He said the CM exercised powers under the section 24 of the Sindh Civil Servant Act while accepting the summaries of individuals to provide scholarships on meritorious basis. He submitted that students were qualified to get scholarships from the funds though but admitted that that as per upper limit of annual income of Rs1.5 million as provided under the rules, all the persons were not competent to receive the same.

He informed the SHC that as yet, the trust of endowment fund was not registered as well as the rules and regulations were to be streamlined hence the approval of summaries were not a result of any malfeasance or misfeasance, but result of misunderstanding. He submitted that the amount, released in favour of individuals, would be transferred to the endowment fund by the finance department from other heads as the principal amount of endowment fund could not be utilised by any officer including the Board of Trustees.

The AG, however, undertook that the CM would not pass any new summary onwards and all the scholarships would be dealt with by the Sukkur IBA and the IBA, Karachi, to be regulated by the board of trustees.

The AG submitted that funds amounting to Rs51.955 million that had been disbursed from the year 2016-2017 to 2019-2020 on the basis of special summaries shall be credited by the government of Sindh to the endowment fund. He submitted that another summary for scholarships from the endowment fund in the sum of Rs7,113,264 was approved by the CM on December 21, 2019. However, it had not been disbursed so far. He said if the court permitted to release this amount, it shall also be credited by the government of Sindh to the endowment fund.

The AG further undertook that the criteria for regulating the endowment fund for school education shall also be finalised at the earliest on the same lines as the endowment fund for college education.

The high court observed that the endowment stood established decades earlier yet even it could not establish trust nor could frame rules which caused misuse of the fund.

The SHC also turned down a plea of the Sindh government that said that as per the section 24 of the Sindh Civil Servants Act, 1973, the government had unfettered powers to intervene in personal affair(s) / liabilities of civil servants because the status of civil servant never rips away the personal (private) status of a person nor allows a civil servant to take any undue benefit of his status (civil servant) to discharge his personal liabilities which does include education of their children.

The high court also directed the AG to satisfy the court on proposition as whether the government had powers to use the amount from another head to pay such like amount.

Regarding misappropriation of the endowment fund worth Rs29,800,000 in 2017 by officials of the endowment department, the SHC directed the college education secretary to submit details as to whether that amount was received back by the endowment department or not. The court observed that in case such amount was seized, judicial propriety demanded that the FIA officials shall process the transfer of such amount to the endowment fund because only after investment thereof the benefits could fall upon poor and orphans for higher studies. The SHC also issued a notice to the deputy attorney general who shall submit the present status of the criminal case in question and shall ensure that the amount involved in embezzlement is returned to the concerned department for proper use after due process.

The SHC directed the college education secretary to submit details of what departmental action had been taken against delinquent officials pursuant to the enquiry report which culminated while holding the delinquent officers in this malfeasance.

The SHC observed that the Sindh AG shall ensure compliance and file a statement on the next date with regard to the legislation of trust and establishment of school education endowment fund.

The bench also directed the endowment fund additional secretary to ensure that a separate website was launched in the similar pattern of the endowment department of Punjab which showed complete mechanism and criteria of endowment fund scholarships enabling the students to apply for them.

The high court observed that the Aga Khan University president had served as the chairman of the Board of Trustees, therefore it would be pertinent to direct the chief secretary that in place of any other private university, the Aga Khan University president shall be nominated as member or chairman of the board of trustees.

The SHC also observed that seats allocation was not in accordance with the strength of students and faculties therefore the universities that had various faculties to provide higher education to common students in the public sector, such as the Sindh University, Karachi University, Khairpur University and Shaheed Benazir Bhutto University Larkana, shall have a sufficient increase in number of seats.

The high court also directed the health secretary that all the mentally challenged persons nestled in Darul Aman centres and orphanage centres shall be sent to hospitals and in every district hospital there will be a separate ward with regard to differently-abled persons. The SHC directed the relevant judicial magistrates to pay monthly visits to the orphanage centres and sweet homes and submit a report through the member inspection team.