SC advises courts not to dislodge university decisions

SC advises courts not to dislodge university decisions

ISLAMABAD:

The Supreme Court held on Friday that the courts must interfere sparingly in the internal affairs of the educational institutions and leave the disciplinary, administrative and policy matters of the universities or educational institutions to the professional expertise of the people running them.

In its verdict on a petition filed by the Khyber Medical University against a decision of the Peshawar High Court (PHC), the court said self-restraint by the courts in matter of educational institutions was based on the wisdom that institutional autonomy of the universities must be protected.

“It has been time and again held by this Court that courts must sparingly interfere in the internal governance and affairs of educational institutions,” said the five pages judgment authored by Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah.

“It is simply prudent that the courts keep their hands off educational matters and avoid dislodging decisions of the university authorities, who possess technical expertise and experience of actual day to day workings of the educational institutions”, the judgment added.

A three-judge bench of the apex court, led by Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, heard the appeal against the PHC decision in which a medical student of 4th semester, BS-Paramedics (Dental Technology) at the Ahmed Medical Institute, Peshawar, was the respondent.

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The respondent student had been apprehended while impersonating as a female student and appearing on her behalf in the examination paper of Human Physiology (2nd Semester) of the Khyber Medical University.

Proceedings were initiated under Regulation 32 (C) of the Khyber Medical University Examination Regulations, 2017 and he was disqualified for three years. The respondent appealed in the PHC wherein the court reduced the penalty from three years to one year.

The ruling said that every university had the right to set out its disciplinary and other policies in accordance with law, and unless any such policy offended the fundamental rights of the students or violated law, interference by the courts results in disrupting the smooth functioning of the university.

“It is, therefore, best to leave the disciplinary, administrative and policy matters of the universities or educational institutions to the professional expertise of the people running them, unless of course there is a violation of any of the fundamental rights or any law,” the apex court order said.

The court also said that that self-restraint by the courts in matter of educational institutions was based on the wisdom that academic freedom and institutional autonomy of the universities must be protected and safeguarded.

It also said that it is not the constitutional mandate of the courts to run and manage public or private institutions or to mirco-manage them or to interfere in their policy and administrative internal matters. “Courts neither enjoy such jurisdiction nor possess the requisite technical expertise in this regard.”

“Our constitutional democracy is run by laws and not by men. Judges are to decide disputes before them in accordance with the Constitution and the law, not on the basis of their whims, likes and dislikes or personal feelings.”

The ruling also said that compassion and hardship might be considered by courts for providing relief to an aggrieved person, but only when there was scope in the relevant law to do so, and not in breach of the law.

“The reduction of the disqualification period by the High Court, in contravention of the relevant law, is an example of judicial overreach or judicial overstepping, where law is ignored or modified by the court to give way to personal emotions and sense of compassion,” it said.

“Such exercise of judicial power is not permissible,” the court said, as it set aside the PHC judgment and restored three years disqualification on the student.

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