ISLAMABAD   -   The Supreme Court on Thursday expressed surprise on establishment of sub-campuses of University of Sargodha and issuance of thousands of degrees to undeserving persons.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed took up the appeal for hearing filed by former vice chancellor Dr Muhammad Akram challenging the orders of Lahore High Court wherein his bail was rejected.

The ex-VC of the varsity is in National Accountability Bureau (NAB) custody on charges of abusing his authority and approving the establishment of Sub-Campus of University of Sargodha at Lahore by using emergency powers and said campus was never approved from the syndicate.

On September 8 last year, Dr Akram was arrested along with others. It has been alleged that Dr Akram by misusing his authority approved establishment of Sub-Campus of University of Sargodha at Lahore and at Mandi Baha-ud-Din by mis-declaration of facts and violated the prescribed rules.

It has been further alleged that Dr Akram appointed the teaching and non-teaching staff in violation of the rules and also awarded the tenders of different development works in violation of PPRA Rules and caused huge loss to government exchequer.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan, member of the bench, remarked that the incumbent VC of the varsity has conceded that thousands of degrees were issued in the tenure of Dr Akram.

He further remarked that degrees were issued to even those who could not even pass secondary school.

Advocate Asad Manzoor Butt, counsel for Dr Akram, contended before the bench that varsity’s rules allow the establishment of sub-campuses.

He further contended that the fake degrees which have been mentioned in the case were issued after Dr Akram tenure.

Justice Saeed questioned whether the reference has been filed in the matter. He also questioned the charges mentioned in the reference.  Special Prosecutor NAB Imranul Haq informed the bench that the NAB reference contains charges of fake degrees and illegal appointments.

However, Advocate Butt contended that he has not been provided the copy of reference.

He further argued that varsity has closed the sub-campuses against which the complaints filed.

The bench directed the NAB to provide the copy of reference to Dr Akram’s counsel.

The appeal contended that Dr Akram has nothing to do with the commission of any such crime as alleged against him by the investigating officer adding that as per the grounds of arrest the first allegation against him was that he approved the sub-campus at Lahore without formal approval of syndicate.

“It is submitted that ‘limit Educational Welfare Foundation’ filed an application under ‘Public Private Partnership Policy 2011’ to the University of Sargodha and offered two locations i.e. (i) Izmeer Canal Bank Lahore and (ii) Property No.12-C, Model Town, Lahore. The ‘Affiliation Committee’ constituted by the Syndicate visited the sites and recommended the approval of Sub-Campus at Lahore on 03.09.2012. Thereafter Deed of Agreement was signed on 06.09.2012, where after notification of Registrar was issued on 24.09.2012.”

It further added that the approval of sub-campus at Lahore was given by the petitioner by using Emergency powers entrusted to him vide University of Sargodha (UOS) Act, 2002 as such has not committed any wrong.

“The UOS Act 2002 allows the Vice Chancellor (V.C) to use emergency powers and it has to be reported to syndicate in next meeting. Moreover, the sub-campus at Lahore filed an application for change of their Name on 13.12.2012, which was marked in the agenda of Syndicate meeting being held on 21.12.2012 and the application was accepted by the Syndicate during the aforesaid meeting, which was deemed to be implied reporting to Syndicate as no objection was raised at that time by the members of the Syndicate on the constriction of sub campus at Lahore.”

Moreover, the emergency powers were used just to safeguard the interest of student as at that time the meeting of Syndicate was not in sight /in near future, therefore, to regularize the admissions of the students as applied by the Sub-Campus were approved accordingly.

The appeal further contended that there is no question of any misuse of authority ever arose in the approval of the Lahore Campus as it is still working and was subsequently, duly approved by the Higher Education Commission in the year 2016.

“Needless to state here, that there has been allegation neither of gaining any illegal monetary benefits against the petitioner, nor there is any evidence on record; as such the petitioner deserves the right of bail.”

The sub campus at Lahore was visited and inspected by the “Affiliation Committee” and the same was approved as the campus in the year 2012, when all the ‘emergency powers’ of VC were intact and the same were amended in 2013.

It is submitted that the Affiliation Committee rejected the application of “M/s Comprehensive Group” for constitution of Sub-Campus at Mandi Bahauddin, but later on, on 19.07.2013, a request for re-inspection was made by “M/s Comprehensive Group”, the same application was placed before the Syndicate by the orders of the ex VC which was allowed vide rule No.4 of Rules of Procedure for their meeting No.5/2013 held on 20.07.2013.

“It is submitted that as per the NAB allegation there are  total illegal appointments comes to 1744 members which is factually wrong, as the petitioner when left the office after his retirement the total numbers of employees working in the University of Sargodha were 1600 only. The petitioner took charge as the second Vice Chancellor University 2007, already having a total of 400 staff (approximately) in 2007.”

The regular appointments were made through observance of all codal formalities, it added.

The appeal further contended that the petitioner being Vice Chancellor cannot award any tender himself, rather as per rules, there is a “Campus Construction Committee” comprising of Project Director (PD) as well as other technical members who have been authorized and given the powers who awarded the tenders, but surprisingly none of the members of “Campus Construction Committee” have been made an accused in this case nor the third party consultant who was actually responsible for giving the technical opinion regarding the tender are called upon by the NAB authorities.