The Sindh High Court has put in abeyance Sindh chief minister’s May 31 suspension order of Sindh University (SU) Vice Chancellor Prof Fateh Muhammad Burfat. Hyderabad Circuit Bench also debarred on Monday the provincial government from conducting inquiry, which was notified on May 30, against Prof Burfat’s alleged misconduct, inefficiency, corruption, violation of budgetary provision and maladministration.
Prof Burfat, who left charge of SU on the night of May 31, is likely to resume charge on Tuesday, June 11. Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, in his capacity of chancellor of public sector universities, suspended Prof Burfat because he was being investigated by the Sindh Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) besides a single-member committee headed by Naheed Durrani.
“CM has been pleased to place Burfat under suspension with immediate effect until the finalisation of enquiry already instituted against him,” read the CM’s notification. ACE initiated the inquiry against Prof Burfat in October 2018, when he and other officials of SU were served a notice to record statements. ACE began investigating a range of expenditures made with the VC’s nod.
“… it has surfaced that a series of illegalities and corrupt practices have been committed by a cartel of the university’s officers in connivance with each other through an organised conspiracy,” read ACE’s letter.
The establishment asked SU to submit a list of bank accounts and bank statements since Prof Burfat took charge, comparative statements of profit earned from SU’s fuel stations before and after Prof Burfat’s joining and complete details of the development works in his tenure. Records of contingency, repair and maintenance expenses; appointments, promotions and postings; budget and expenses of faculty development program; details of foreign tours made on SU’s money were also sought.
In his petition, Prof Burfat apprised the court that Sindh CM appointed an inquiry officer against him on May 30 and that on the following day, on May 31, another notification of his suspension was issued. “… both the impugned notifications have been issued in gross and blatant violation of the mandatory provisions of Section 13 (3) of the University of Sindh Act, 1972,” he contended.
According to the petitioner, the CM can only remove a VC after an inquiry committee submits to his office substantial findings proving that the VC violated the laws. He also challenged composition of the inquiry committee which consisted of only one person.
“No findings whatsoever have been given either by the inquiry committee or by the individual inquiry officer, recommending removal of the petitioner.” Prof Burfat maintained that he was not even provided the opportunity of being served a show cause notice.
Prof Burfat is the first VC who has been suspended by the CM over halfway through his four years tenure. He joined SU as its VC on January 19, 2017.
SHC while suspending both the notifications put the respondents on notice for June 20. The respondents include Sindh CM, Sindh chief secretary and secretary boards and universities.