LAHORE: Responding to the public outcry over enhanced fees, the Punjab government on Saturday promulgated the Punjab Private Educational Institutions (Promotion and Regulation Amendment) Ordinance 2015 to regulate the affairs of the private schools.

A good number of parents of students seeking education in private schools have been protesting in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi and elsewhere against the owners of the institutions for ‘unprecedented’ fee increase.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took notice and directed the authorities concerned to redress the grievances of the parents.

Under the Ordinance, an in-charge of the institution shall get registered the institution with the Registering Authority. In case the institution is not registered, the in-charge shall apply for the registration of the institution within 45 days of the commencement of this Ordinance and Registering Authority shall decide the same within 60 days from the date of filing of the application. However, the institution shall continue to function till the decision of the application.

“No private institution shall charge fee during academic year 2015-16 at the rate higher than the fee charged during the academic year 2014-15. In case, there is a reasonable justification for appropriate increase in the fee for the purposes of the next academic year, the in-charge may apply to the Registering Authority at least three months before the start of next academic year, proposing reasonable increase of the fee.

“The Registering Authority shall fix the maximum amount of fee which will be charged by an institution or a category of institutions from the students. The institution shall not charge any amount from the students other than the fee and the in-charge shall refund within seven days from the commencement of this Ordinance the additional fee already charged or adjust it with the fee immediately payable by the student,” read the ordinance.

The admission fee or the security shall not exceed the amount equal to the tuition fee payable by the student for a month. The fee includes admission fee, tuition fee, security, laboratory fee, library fee or any other fee or amount charged by an institution from a student.

According to the law, the institution shall not require the parents to purchase textbooks, uniform or other material from a particular shop or provider. Any person aggrieved by a final order of the Registering Authority, can file an appeal to the Commissioner of the division within thirty days and the Commissioner shall also decide the appeal within thirty days and the decision of the Commissioner will be final.

If an in-charge contravenes any provisions of the Ordinance, the Registering Authority after providing reasonable opportunity of defence can impose administrative penalty up to Rs20,000 per day from the date of notice is served to the institution. If the contravention continues for more than 30 days, the Registering Authority, in addition to any other action or penalty under the Ordinance, shall file a complaint against the in-charge in the court of the first class magistrate and the court can punish the in-charge with fine up to Rs2 million but shall not be less than Rs200,000. If an in-charge runs the institution without registration under the Ordinance, he will be liable to punishment of fine up to Rs4 million but not less than Rs300,000.

“The Registering Authority shall not impose penalty or fine unless the in-charge is afforded an opportunity of hearing,” the ordinance says.

There have been complaints against private educational institutions for many years but the PML-N kept prevaricating on the issue. It has finally come up with an ordinance which has come into force with immediate effect.

Published in Dawn, September 20th, 2015

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