Church lacks legal authority over Peshawar’s Edwardes College, court rules


–PHC says KP’s oldest educational institute will remain under control of provincial govt

–Detailed judgement states Peshawar Bishop Humphrey Peters tried to mislead court

–Incumbent principal, bishop alleged of involvement in multiple incidents of corruption, abuse of power


PESHAWAR: Putting an end to the controversy surrounding Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s oldest educational institute, Edwardes College, the Peshawar High Court (PHC) has rejected Peshawar Diocese Bishop Humphrey Safaraz Peters’ claim that the college is a private entity, declaring that it would remain under the control of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government.

A division bench of the court comprising Justice Qaisar Rashed Khan and Justice Ahmad Ali heard a number of petitions moved by Bishop Humphrey, Vice Principal Shakil Ahmad and the provincial government pertaining the status and affairs of the college.

The bishop contended that Edwardes College was established as a private missionary educational institution by the Church Mission Society and it had its own financial resource, which were created through donations and fee.

The faculty members, however, stated that the bishop, in connivance with the principal, held a meeting of the executive committee of the Diocese and came up with the idea of forming a new board of governors by disbanding the existing board headed by the governor. They added that the bishop’s act was illegal.

They further stated that the college had been funded for more than five decades by the provincial government regularly and as such, the college after attaining financial stability became an autonomous institution and not a private institution.

Upon the conclusion of arguments from both sides, the bench dismissed the bishop’s petitions and admitted the petitions of the government and the vice-principal which contended that all privately-owned schools and colleges had been taken over by the government in 1972.

The bench also accepted an application of the provincial government seeking to recall the 2006 judgement, which had declared the Edwardes College a private educational institution.

In the detailed judgement, which was released on Tuesday, the court stated that the newly-constituted board of governors formed by the bishop lacked lawful authority and the decisions taken by the board did not have any legal or binding effect.

The court formally stated that the college is a “nationalised and autonomous institute pursuant to the regulation ibid which has been validated as per Article 269 of the Constitution, 1973, and its affairs are properly managed by the governor of KP”.

The court order stated that in January 1974, the provincial government had issued a notification, through which it had constituted a board of governors for the college under the chairmanship of the governor and had vested administrative powers to the board. The notification was duly published in the Government Gazette on April 2, 1976, the court order added.

It is pertinent to mention here that the fight between the government and the bishop for the ownership of the historic college has brought the educational institute to the verge of collapse.

During the hearing of the case, multiple incidents of corruption and abuse of power came to light, including one mentioned by the top officer of the province pertaining to the issuance of certain office orders by the incumbent principal for the appointment of his kin to key posts without due process.

As the situation degraded, KP Advocate General Shumail Ahmad Butt said, students opted to either quit their studies or migrate to other colleges. He also produced a document which showed that 200 students had recently left the college.

The bench also set aside the judgment passed on the writ petition moved by Malik Naz, who was once a contender for the post of college principal and had moved a Civil Petition for Leave to Appeal (CPLA) before the Supreme Court (SC) but had not pursued it.

Expressing surprise over the lack of a follow-up at the apex court after a petition had been moved there, the court said it would be decided afresh as some facts had been concealed from the court.

Finally, the court disposed of those petitions and directed the authorities to make strenuous efforts to restore the trust of the students in the college.