LAHORE - Even after clear order of LHC restraining legislators from working as members of Punjab Education Foundation’s BoDs, the School Education Department (SED) is likely to invoke provincial assembly to push through amending the relevant law, PEF Act 2004, to allow MNAs holding the posts.

The LHC restrained the MPs, Sara Afzal Tarar, Rana Afzal and Engineer Qamarul Islam Raja of PML-N, as members of the PEF Board of Governors as the persons necessary to be included from private sector as per Section 5 (1) (2) of Punjab Education Foundation Act - 2004 were not included.

As the LHC, on a petition of petitioner lawyer Ch Shaoib Saleem, restrained the lawmakers to work in such capacity at PEF, the Punjab government has opted to amend the law to avoid the consequences of the final verdict, said an Education department official.

The fresh move of the Schools department is said to be an act to obstruct consequences of an illegal act of appointing legislators as members of the foundation. The notification of a committee to examine law by the Secretary School Education department on formation of BoDs reflected the intentions of the executive to protect the MPs as BoD members at every cost.

The committee is comprising Special Secretary School Education as Chairman and Deputy Secretary (ER), Deputy Secretary (EE) Deputy Secretary (Legal) as members to examine the PEF law on formation of Board of Directors and its related issues to make it more comprehensive to get the targeted goal.

An officer of the School Education Department told this correspondent that the PEF administration had requested the SED to do the same and the schools secretary constituted a committee to examine the law regarding appointment of BoDs.

The plaintiff’s challenge to the government move is fit for judicial review because the administration by constituting a committee to review the law indicates that it will propose changes to the regulations that are intended to accommodate plaintiff’s objections besides ensuring appointment of MPs as BoG members, said the officer.

He added otherwise the government’s argument to defend the PEF BoGs will not stand up in court.

This current move to amend the law allegedly for protecting the position of lawmakers might set an odd example to shirk the consequences of the unlawful acts of government, said the official.

Such a move of the executive when the issue is subjudiced might lead to another legal discussion whether the government could do amend the law when any of its mala fide acts was under consideration in any of courts of law.

If the government succeeds amending the law before the final judgment, what will be the status of illegal appointments of directors compromising spirit of the law?

According to legal experts, if the government was allowed to change law, it would be able to avert the illegal acts along with their consequences.

Official sources say that the Advocate General Punjab has clearly conveyed to the provincial government that the formation of the PEF BoD was unlawful and there was only one way to save the skin of the MPs: to amend the relevant clause of the Act.

Taking clue from the top official lawyer, the Secretary Schools has notified the committee to look into the law, they add.

Last month, the Lahore High Court had restrained Sara Afzal Tarar, Rana Afzal and Engineer Qamarul Islam Raja of PML-N from working as members of Punjab Education Foundation in a petition challenging new board of directors appointed on alleged political grounds.

The LHC judge also sought reply from the authorities concerned on Friday and adjourned the matter till April 16.

A lawyer-petitioner, Chaudhary Shoaib Saleem, had challenged the new Board of Directors constituted against the Act of the foundation. He argued that the directors had completed their term on March 18, 2014 but were still enjoying the status of PEF membership.

On Dec 22, 2014, Punjab School Education Department Secretary issued a notification No SO(ER-II) 2-3/2007(P) and constituted a new board of director, the petitioner said. The new board of directors is against the law under the said foundation was established, he added.

The new board of PEF directors includes MNA Saira Afzal Tarar, MNA Rana Muhammad Afzal, MPA Engineer Qamar-ul-Islam Raja, former Provincial Ombudsperson and Overseas Commissioner Punjab Afzaal Bhatti, PEF vice-chairman Dr Amjad Saqib and Strategy and innovation Unit Chief Minister’s Secretariat Chairman and Punjab Examination Commission chairperson Dr. Zafar Iqbal Qureshi Member.

The petitioner says these respondents are public servants as they are holding various public offices and do not fall within the definition of private persons which are necessarily to be included from private sector as per Section 5 (1) (2) of Punjab Education Foundation Act - 2004.

He adds they are not eligible for being the members of the Board of Directors as private members and they cannot hold the offices of directors of Punjab Education Foundation, hence they have to explain under which authority of law they are holding the office of PEF directors.

Advocate Shoaib also submits that there has been massive financial embezzlement and misappropriation in the foundation and a very exhaustive inquiry was launched by Chief Minister’s Inception Team (CMIT). He says a report was issued by the CMIT on June 20, 2014 wherein registration of criminal cases was also directed against the top level management officials besides conducting an independent and impartial audit of the financial and other matters of the foundation.

He states the constitution of the present board of directors is clear violation of the statutory law and mala fide on the part of the government to get complete hold of the foundation although it has sufficient representation in decision making.

On Friday, the petitioner had prayed the court to set aside the impugned notification No So (ER-II)2-3/2007(P) issued by Punjab School Education Department Secretary by Dec 22 last year for the constitution of new BoDs comprising the above said respondents.