PESHAWAR - The Peshawar High Court (PHC) Tuesday declared illegal the chief minister's decision to hand over a major portion of the University of Peshawar's (UoP) Botanical Garden to set up two other universities in Azakhel, Nowshera.

The decision came in the light of the writ petition filed by the Peshawar University Teachers Association (PUTA) on March 8 against the chief minister's ordered in February last that 577 kanals of the garden should be given to the Islamabad-based Air University and a Technical University.

A two-member bench comprising Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Musarrat Hilali announced the decision in the writ petition after hearing arguments. On March 14, the court had issued the stay order in this regard.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Advocate General Abdul Lateef Yousafzai appeared for the provincial government and submitted that the PUTA has no right to file the writ petition, as the aggrieved party was the University of Peshawar, not PUTA.

He said that major portion of the land given to the UoP was barren as the university had used 77 kanals of the total land and the provincial government was using it for educational purpose.

Petitioner's lawyer Mohibullah Kakakhel submitted that the chief minister had no lawful right to give a major portion of the land of the Botanical Garden to two other private sector universities.

Meanwhile, Peshawar University Teachers Association (PUTA) has welcomed the Peshawar High Court ruling regarding retention of Azakhel Botanical Garden as its own property. President PUTA Dr Fazli Nasir and General Secretary Fayaz Ali jointly congratulated all the PUTA members, university employees, civil societies organisation and lawyer community for their undaunted support.

The president PUTA said that Azakhel Botanical Garden is University's premier research centre for planting biodiversity and annually 200 students get benefit from it.    

He said they moved to court as a last resort after repeated requests and appeals to the chief minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and PTI Chairman Imran Khan for a sitting were turned down. "The University of Peshawar has suffered multiple times in the past when its multiple wings were cut to establish universities like UET, AUP," he said, adding the University was never compensated and therefore, it was necessary to knock the courts for justice," he added. "We expect from provincial government and PTI leadership to take keen interest in providing alternative spaces and resources for the injustice made in the past to this great seat of learning and mother of all universities of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa," he added.