Lahore: Harassment of girl students
LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Thursday restrained Governor Latif Khosa, chancellor of the Punjab University, from taking any step to restore former Principal of College of Earth and Environmental Sciences (CEES) of PU, Dr Iftikhar Hussain Baloch, who was dismissed from service after the university’s syndicate found him guilty of sexual harassment of two female students.
Chief Justice Ijaz Ahmad Chaudhry issued the interim stay order on the writ petition filed by Shabina Gul, a PhD student and visiting lecturer, who had alleged Mr Baloch of harassing her.
The court also issued notice to the governor, Iftikhar Baloch and PU VC for June 24.
The petitioner had challenged the likely reinstatement of the former principal by the governor with whom Baloch had filed an appeal against his dismissal. Through her counsel, she submitted that she had taken admission for PhD to the College of Earth and Environmental Sciences in 2009 and was also a visiting teacher there. She said at that time, the college was headed by the respondent, Iftikhar Baloch, who was its principal.
She alleged that Baloch had made immoral overtures upon her but her unresponsive and discouraging posture resulted in threat and coercion with attempted sexual abuse against her by the latter. She alleged that the event created deep anxiety and anguish for her and she registered a complaint with PU VC Dr Mujahid Kamran on May 27, 2010. She said the VC had initiated an inquiry by a committee headed by Dr Ahsan Malik and latter by Prof Dr Amin Athar, Director Institute of Bio-Chemistry and Bio-Technology. The petitioner said that during the inquiry, a repetition of criminal and sexual abuse occurred against her female colleagues/students and another complaint was filed by Miss Shafaq Ejaz, administrator of CEES, against Baloch. This complaint was forwarded to a four-member enquiry committee, headed by Prof Dr Mehmood Akhtar, Dean Faculty of Islamic Studies, which gave submitted its findings to the VC on December 8, 2010. The matter was then put up before the PU syndicate which decided to impose dismissal of Baloch from service since he was found guilty of the sexual harassment. She said the syndicate reaffirmed its findings unanimously on May 25.
Ms Gul said that Baloch had filed an appeal before the PU chancellor, Governor Latif Khosa. She said the appeal was pending and was being decided in utter haste due to extraneous considerations while Baloch also used political influence. She said the matter was also taken up by the Standing Committee on Government Assurances of the National Assembly, headed by Mahmood Hayat Khan Tochi Khan. She alleged that Tochi Khan, being in league with Baloch, unlawfully summoned the VC who attended the proceedings of the committee on March 10, 2011 and the VC was treated in the most un-honourable manner, she said. She said he was ridiculed and unlawfully directed “to resolve the matter relating to the dismissal and reinstatement of Baloch.” She said the direction was a blatant violation of the law and the constitution as the matter did not fall within committee’s domain at all. Later on, she said, the syndicate conducted its own proceedings and recommended dismissal of Baloch while the VC also agreed with the recommendations which resulted in a letter of dismissal of Baloch from service on April 21, 2011.
Shabina Gul said the action of the syndicate and VC infuriated the chairman of the Standing Committee who had written a letter on May 9 to the PU chancellor (governor) asking him to accept the Baloch’s appeal and reinstate him. He also wanted the chancellor to suspend the VC for “violating the instructions of the Committee.”
The petitioner said that to the best of her knowledge and belief, the chancellor has already conducted a ‘hearing’ of appeal of Baloch and tried to influence the present officials of the PU to resolve the matter through reconciliation. She said that the VC wanted the reinstatement through amicable mode instead of realising that he did not have any jurisdiction in this matter. This was because after the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, the Ministry of Education stood abolished and the domain of education was transferred to the exclusive legislative/administrative domain of the province of Punjab, she said, adding that the governor (chancellor) did not have any jurisdiction in such a matter and he could only act upon the advice of the chief minister of the province.
The petitioner said that as per media reports, the Punjab governor had written a letter to PU VC Mujahid Kamran to restore Baloch as principal PU’s College of Earth and Environment Science. The governor had summoned the VC in Governor’s House on June 4 and expressed displeasure at the inquiry report into incident, she said, adding that the governor also asked the VC to restore Baloch to his post within seven days or the governor would do so himself in his capacity as chancellor.
Shabina Gul said she was disturbed by the above events, the unlawful mode and manner of the actions being taken in the matter and the unlawful assumption and exercise of jurisdiction by the chancellor, the governor. She prayed to the court to declare that the proceedings on the appeal of Baloch by the governor were without jurisdiction and without lawful authority and might be struck down. She further pleaded the court to declare that the chancellor did not have any jurisdiction to reverse any finding of fact rendered by the Syndicate of University of Punjab and he be restrained to hear, deal or adjudicate the appeal of Baloch.