LAHORE - The case regarding establishment of sub-campus of Bahauddin Zakaria University in the provincial capital remained as the most prominent case at the Lahore High Court during the last week.

During the proceedings, it also transpired that provincial minister Zaeem Qadri was also allegedly involved in establishing the sub-campus of BZU which ruined many of the students’ careers. The Lahore High Court allowed the request of the Advocate General Punjab to submit a reply regarding Qadri’s alleged role in establishment of the sub-campus. The court asked the law officer to explain under what capacity Zaeem Qadri had signed the summary for the approval of the sub-campus, with directions to the minister to appear before the court on the next hearing which is due on Jan 25. The LHC, during the week, also questioned the powers of the Higher Education Commission regarding establishment of varsities and appointment of faculty members. The court directed the federal and provincial higher education commissions to explain their role on the matter in question.

Heading a division bench seized with appeals of Punjab government and others against a single bench order in vice chancellors’ appointment case, Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah also asked the advocate general to apprise whether search committee, struck down by the single bench, had followed the rules and guidelines set by the federal HEC. Earlier Advocate AK Dogar in his concluding arguments stated that setting criteria for appointments at an institution was entirely different from setting standards for higher education.

He maintained the role of the federal government/HEC was to frame standards for academic curricular and degree programmes. He argued that the appointment of the VCs did not fall within the domain of the federal government. Even prior to 18th amendment the provinces had the power to appoint VCs.

Advocate Dogar also challenged the jurisdiction of the two-judge bench to hear the appeals, saying a larger bench should be constituted on the matter.

During the hearing, the bench kept asking the lawyers of the appellants and law officers of the HECs about the definition of “standards” but failed to get any satisfactory answer. Being annoyed with inadequate replies by the Punjab-HEC counsel in particular, CJ Shah observed that the commission had been running without any idea and policy document.

At one point, the chief justice asked AGP Shakilur Rehman Khan to help the provincial HEC counsel prepare the arguments. The counsel, however, maintained that the provincial commission had no direct role in the appointment of the VCs. He said the province was supposed to follow national standards set by the federal government.

An official of the provincial HEC told the court that the standards represent guidelines for curricular and education programmes.

A deputy attorney general said establishing an institution was the power of the province and the federal government was to provide minimum criteria for whole structure including the appointments.

The counsel for federal-HEC also failed to come up with a clear response to the court’s queries with regard to nature of the regulations/standards set by the commission.

The chief justice adjourned further hearing till Jan 23 and sought replies from the both commissions about their role in the appointment process.

In another case, the LHC summoned the federal secretary (inter-provincial coordination) and the irrigation secretary for not presenting water policy before Council of Common Interest (CCI). Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah was hearing a petition of a local agriculturist against government’s failure to meet the challenges of climate change.

An officer of the irrigation department told the court that draft of the provincial water policy had been finalised and lying for consideration before the minister. Meanwhile, a representative of the inter-provincial coordination said that federal water policy had been devised, however, could not be presented before the CCI due to conflicts among the provinces. He further stated that ten-year flood protection plan had also been made but huge funds were required for its enforcement.

The chief justice directed the secretaries to appear in person on next hearing and explain delay in presentation of the water policy before the CCI.

During the week, the LHC also stayed execution of a man convicted by a military court on charges of abetting an attack on the office of an intelligence agency in Multan. A division bench headed by Justice Muhammad Tariq Abbasi passed the order on a petition moved by Abdul Qayum of Faisalabad sentenced for death by Lahore military court under Pakistan Army (amendment) Act, 2015 on Jan 4, 2016. Representing the petitioner, Anas Ghazi argued that requisites of justice were not met by the military court convicting his client. He said the petitioner was not given an opportunity of fair trial as he was condemned unheard. The lawyer further pointed out that an anti-terrorism court of Multan had already tried and convicted suspects of the 2009 attack on ISI office and the petitioner was not among the tried suspects. He asked the bench to stay the execution till final decision of the petition since mercy petition had been rejected by the army chief.

Through a written reply filed before the bench, Punjab home department stated that a jail appeal of Abdul Qayum, the petitioner, was dismissed by Judge Advocate General’s Branch on March 22, 2016. It said the provisions of Army Act were the law made by the parliament and that if any such provision tends to affect fundamental rights that provision did not become void as newly added proviso to Article 175 of the Constitution had already been declared being not ultra vires by the Supreme Court.

The home department stated that a division bench of the LHC (Bahawalpur seat) dismissed an identical petition on the same matter. Therefore, it said, the instant petition should be dismissed. After hearing the arguments, the bench suspended operation of the death penalty and stayed execution of Abdul Qayum till next hearing on Jan 25. The bench also sought a reply from attorney general on the matter.

Besides these cases, the Lahore High Court was told by the Civil Lines police that the former office bearer of PML-N Youth Wing, Adnan Sanaullah, who was involved in a gang rape of a young woman in Lahore, had fled the country. The Civil Lines SP Investigations informed the division bench during hearing of a prosecution appeal against bail granted to the suspect by a sessions court following ‘reconciliation’ with the victim party. The officer said the suspect had flown to Dubai from Islamabad airport on Nov 5, 2016.

At this, Additional Prosecutor General Abdul Samad asked the bench to set aside the impugned order of the bail grant. He argued that the suspect misused the concession of bail. Heading the bench, Justice Shahid Hameed Dar summoned record of the case from the trial court and adjourned hearing till Jan 27.

Also in the week, the LHC dismissed petition of a doctor suspended on charges of showing negligence during work at Jinnah Hospital where a female patient died on the floor after being left unattended.

On another petition against Ahmad Iqbal, son of federal minister Ahsan Iqbal, the LHC issued notice to Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

Petitioner’s counsel Barrister Adeel told the court that vote of Ahmad Iqbal, the chairman, was shifted to an urban area from rural after issuance of the election schedule. He said shifting of vote after the issuance of the schedule was a clear violation of election laws. He asked the court to disqualify the respondent to hold the office of the chairman. Justice Shahid Waheed adjourned hearing for three weeks and sought a reply from the ECP.

During the week, the LHCBA announced to take to the streets if military courts are re-established. At a press conference, the bar’s leaders said lawyers would strongly oppose any unconstitutional move to re-establish the military courts and hold countrywide protests. LHCBA president Zia Abdul Rehman said the lawyers had also opposed the establishment of the military courts when the parliament introduced a Constitutional amendment in 2015.

During last week, at Supreme Court, Barrister Zafarullah Khan of Watan Party filed an application seeking directions to refer the matter of Panama leaks about establishment of offshore companies to Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).

In his application filed at Lahore registry, Khan states the FBR can properly investigate the matter since it is involved in collecting revenue from off shore companies. He says the apex court has no jurisdiction to deal with revenue cases. He has asked the court to discharge the ongoing proceedings of Panama leaks case and refer the same to FBR.