LAHORE - The Lahore High Court yesterday removed acting vice chancellors of four public sector universities of Punjab, holding that the Higher Education Department had no authority to make search committees for the appointment of acting VCs.

The court also set aside the process initiated by the Punjab government for the appointment of acting VCs at four varsities, including University of the Punjab, Lahore College for Women University, University of Sargodha and Nawaz Sharif University of Engineering & Technology, Multan.

Mr Justice Shahid Karim of the LHC passed the order, while allowing a number of petitions challenging the process initiated by the Punjab Higher Education Department for the appointment of acting vice chancellors at the four varsities.

The judge directed the chancellor to appoint senior-most professors as acting VCs within seven days till the appointment of permanent VCs.

Prof Dr Mujahid Kamran had been working as acting VC at Punjab University, Prof Dr Uzma Qureshi at Lahore College for Women University, Prof Dr Nazra Sultana at University of Sargodha and Prof Dr Fazal Ahmad Khalid at Nawaz Sharif University of Engineering & Technology, Multan.

College of Information Technology Principal Mansoor Sarwar, Dr Auranzeb Alamghir of Punjab University’s Zoology Department and others had challenged the process for the appointments, submitting the Punjab Higher Education Department (HED) had no jurisdiction to appoint the vice chancellors.

Saad Rasool, the counsel for the petitioners, argued that Higher Education Commission (HEC) was the competent authority to appoint vice chancellors. He stated that an advertisement was given in newspapers on November 4, 2015, for appointment of the PU VC. He said on April 07, through a notification, the HED prescribed the criteria for appointments of VCs in 11 universities. The counsel said earlier on March 3 a search committee was formed by a notification for recommendations on the appointment of the VCs.

The HED, he said, was not competent to issue this advertisement and constituting search committees and prescribing criteria for the VCs was illegal and tantamount to interfering in the domain of HEC.

According to HED and HEC rules, the higher education department had no authority to make the appointments; instead it was the authority of the HEC to make the appointments of the VCs, he contended. He also contended that a non-PhD candidate was also eligible to apply for the post of the VC, but such persons had been excluded outright from the process.

He requested the court to declare the advertisement for the VCs’ criteria and the search committee formed by the HED as illegal and unconstitutional.

He also prayed to the court to direct the Higher Education Commission and other respondents to carry out the process for search, selection and appointment of the VC of the PU afresh, in accordance with the mandate of the constitution, the Higher Education Department Act, and Punjab Higher Education Commission Act.

Dr Mujahid Kamran was appointed as VC of the PU for a term of four years, in January 2008, and then for another term of four years in January of 2012. His second term ended on January 22, 2016, but the Punjab government issued a new advertisement while he turned 65, the age superannuation.