LAHORE: Hearing a set of petitions against the ‘exorbitant’ fee structure at private schools, the Lahore High Court on Wednesday sought arguments from both sides -- schools and parents -- on a point whether offering educational services could be considered a business.

During the Wednesday’s hearing before a full bench headed by Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh, representing one of the schools, Advocate Khwaja Haris argued that the legislation recently introduced by the Punjab government to regulate fee structure of the private sector schools was a violation of the Constitution.

He said the Constitution allowed every citizen to freely run a lawful business.

The counsel argued that the schools’ owners had right to collect rational fee against quality education and facilities they were imparting to students.

Advocate A.K Dogar, on behalf of parents, argued that the education could not be treated like business.

The government’s lawyer defended the legislation and said the private schools could not be left unchecked and uncontrolled.

The bench adjourned further hearing till March 14 and asked both sides to advance arguments on the point whether education was a service or business.

VCs’ appointment case

The Lahore High Court on Wednesday sought personal appearance of the Punjab Higher Education Commission secretary for his version in a case regarding appointment of vice chancellors at four public sector universities of the province.

The court had already stayed the process for the impugned appointments. The varsities include Punjab University, Lahore College for Women University, University of Sargodha and Nawaz Sharif University of Engineering and Technology, Multan.

Dr Asmatullah of zoology department at Punjab University had challenged the process contending that Punjab HEC and Punjab Higher Education Department initiated the process for the appointment of the VCs without lawful authority. He said search committees formed by the government were also illegal.

He said the powers to appoint the VCs solely rested with Higher Education Commission of Pakistan. He asked the court to direct the government to appoint the VCs in accordance with the law and observe merit.

The government’s counsel refuted the allegations of the petitioner and said the entire process for the appointment of the VCs was in accordance with law.

Justice Shahid Karim adjourned hearing till March 15 and directed the Punjab HEC secretary to appear in person.

AGP’s help sought

The Lahore High Court on Wednesday sought assistance from Advocate General Punjab (AGP) on three identical petitions challenging the recently enacted law “Protection of Women against Violence Act 2016”.

Advocate Naheed Baig and other petitioners mainly pleaded that the impugned legislation would lead the traditionally strong family system in the society to disaster. They said the law was not only a violation of fundamental rights but also impractical.

The petitioners stated that women protection law had ridiculed the status of men in family system. They asked the court to strike down the impugned law being repugnant to the Constitution.

Justice Shahid Waheed heard the arguments and issued notice to the advocate general for next week.

Published in Dawn, March 10th, 2016