KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Tuesday directed federal authorities to submit comments on two identical petitions challenging the establishment of Sindh Higher Education Commission by Sindh government.
A division bench headed by Chief Justice Maqbool Baqar also directed federal law officer to file comments of secretary cabinet division and federal education ministry in response to two petitions within 15 days.
Provincial government in comments told the court that Sindh Assembly had enacted the law for establishment of Sindh Higher Education Commission strictly in accordance with the provisions of clause c of Article 142 of the Constitution of Pakistan.
It was stated that prior to 18th Amendment, higher education, curriculum, syllabus, planning, policy, centers of excellence and standard education were included in federal consolidated list but after the passage of 18th Amendment, such subjects were deleted from the concurrent list and provincial legislature is fully competent to enact the impugned law.
Unfortunately, the performance of the HEC has not remained above the board, particularly in the foreign scholarships. People of this province were provided less opportunities of foreign scholarships.
One of the petitions was jointly filed by former chief of Higher Education Commission Dr Attaur Rehman and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Marvi Memon. Another petition was filed by Pak-China Foundation, a non-governmental organization.
The petitioners said that HEC was the domain of the federal legislature and neither the provincial government nor the provincial assembly could make any law governed under the fourth schedule of the constitution.
They said that no law could be promulgated which was contained in federal consolidated list after the deletion of the concurrent list while the function of HEC could not be usurped by the province.
They submitted that the new law was a move to avoid verification process of lawmakers degrees which the federal Higher Education Commission had initiated on the orders of the Election Commission of Pakistan.
They said that the Supreme Court had already decided that the HEC was a federal subject and protected under a constitutional provision mentioned in the Federal Legislative List; therefore, any action on the part of the Sindh government against the Supreme Court observation was unlawful and liable to be quashed forthwith unless a fresh piece of legislation was passed by the federal government.
They pleaded the court declare the Sindh Higher Education Commission Act 2013 as unlawful and unconstitutional.