Tussle Between Higher Education Commission And University Of Punjab
A judgment of the honourable Justice Atir Mehmood has recently been approved for reporting in one of the law journals. The judgment pertains to the jurisdiction of universities in Pakistan, already recognized by the Higher Education Commission (HEC), to issue equivalences or recognition to the degrees of other institutes or universities.
I appeared as counsel on behalf of a law student Wajid Ali, a graduate from Bahauddin Zakariya University Multan campus, who was denied admission in Masters in Law by Punjab University as its equivalence department refused to recognize his law degree. I argued before the honorable court that it is the Higher Education Commission which is vested with the power to issue equivalences and give recognition to universities under Section 10(o) and Section 10(v) of Higher Education Commission Ordinance 2002. So the exercise of powers of equivalence by Punjab University should be declared illegal, often resulting in unjust enrichment of Punjab University.
The counsel for the University of Punjab argued that superior courts have always refrained from interfering in admission policy matters of educational institutes protected under their own universities’ regulations. Hence the petition should be dismissed.
After hearing all the arguments, a judgment was announced in open court on 3rd April 2017. The principle that higher education standard is a federal subject under the Fourth Schedule of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973 was explained in the judgment. It was also observed that it was the jurisdiction of the Higher Education Commission being a federal body to issue equivalences and give recognition to the degrees of institutes. The honorable court further concluded that once a degree is recognized by the Higher Education Commission, there is no further need to get equivalence from any other university. It was further concluded that according to Article 142 of the Constitution, in case of conflict between federal law and provincial law, federal law would get precedence over provincial law. The Higher Education Commission Ordinance 2002 is a federal law under which the Higher Education Commission has jurisdiction to issue equivalence and recognition to the degrees of institutes, therefore the equivalence department, established under the University of Punjab Regulations (a provincial law), is illegal and void ab initio as higher education standard becomes a federal subject.
I hope this important judgment will help in bringing homogenization in improving the standards of higher education in Pakistan. Students who graduated from other universities were asked to pay money to the equivalence department of Punjab University before getting admission in its masters programme despite the fact that their degrees were already recognized by the Higher Education Commission. It was also alleged that under the garb of this equivalence department of Punjab University, many degrees which were not even recognized by Higher Education Commission were given recognition by the Punjab University’s equivalence department.
Hats off to the honorable Lahore High Court for deciding this contentious issue as students over the past few years had been facing exploitation at the hands of Punjab University’s equivalence department which had been exercising its powers arbitrarily and unlawfully.
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