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KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Wednesday restrained private schools from raising their fee by more than five per cent until final orders.

Headed by Chief Justice Ahmed Ali M. Shaikh, a two-judge bench gave the directives on a constitutional petition jointly filed by parents of children studying in different private schools against the school managements for increasing fee by more than five per cent in violation of the rules and regulations.

The bench also directed the education department and respondent private schools to file their respective comments on the matter by the next date of hearing which would be later pronounced by the court’s office. The provincial law officer was also put on notice by the court.

The petitioner parents submitted that the school managements could not increase the fee by more than five per cent in an academic year under the existing rules and regulations. However, they said, some private schools increased the fee by more than 10 per cent in violation of the rules.

The petitioners asked the court to direct the authorities concerned to restrain the school managements from increasing the fee by over five per cent and to follow the rules and regulations.

Education minister had warned schools that violate rules of strict action

Last week, taking notice of the illegal hike in school fee, Minister for Education and Literacy Jam Mehtab Hussain Dahar had warned the educational institutions’ owners who raised fee illegally that they would not only be fined but would also have to go behind bars if they did not mend their ways.

“No one is above the law and strict action will be taken against those educational institutions which have raised fees illegally. A summary is being moved to law department to make the laws more effective against those institutions which violated the rules and regulations,” said Mr Dahar.

Earlier last year, while hearing an identical petition, the SHC had directed the provincial education department to ensure enforcement of Sub-rule 7 m(3) of the Rules 2002 that bound the private institutions not to raise their fee by more than five per cent in an academic year and further requiring them to revise fee structure with prior approval of the government.

Aisha Bawany College case

Chief Justice Shaikh ordered to place before the bench a contempt of court application of the Sindh government against the Aisha Bawany Trust for not complying with the previous court order regarding reopening of the Aisha Bawany College that had restrained the handing over of building’s possession to the trust.

A single bench would hear the contempt of court application on Sept 23.

The application filed by Advocate General barrister Zamir Ghumro said the single bench had restrained the execution of order of the civil court regarding the sealing and possession of the college, but the Aisha Bawany Trust was still not allowing the functioning of educational activities at the college.

Case against ex-chief secretary

The special prosecutor of the National Accountability Bureau informed the SHC that the reference against former chief secretary Siddique Memon had been finalised and sent to the NAB chairman for approval.

The bench extended till Oct 20 the protective bail granted to Mr Memon and put off the hearing.

The grade-21 bureaucrat had on Aug 26 last year obtained anticipatory bail after NAB served on him a notice for investigation against him for allegedly illegally allotting six acres in Karachi in 1992 when he was the land utilisation secretary.

The NAB in its comments, filed during the previous hearing, said that there was sufficient incriminating material against the chief secretary and there appeared a reasonable ground to believe that he was guilty of the offences punishable under National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999.

Apprehension of arrest by NAB had taken Mr Memon to the SHC that first approved his interim pre-arrest bail and later extended it, exempting him from appearing in court during the hearings.

Scores of key provincial and city government officials and politicians have so far secured pre-arrest bail fearing their arrest after NAB issued notices to them to join investigation against them.

The counsel for Mr Memon contended that the land was allotted in 1992 and regularised in 2008 under the relevant laws. He submitted that the land was neither allotted by the chief secretary nor was it regularised by him.

The counsel said the former chief secretary was issued a call-up notice under Section 19 read with Section 27 of the NAO, 1999 on Aug 24.

By way of essential background, he said, the land, Sector 52-A, Corridor area, Scheme-33, Karachi East, was allotted for residential/commercial purposes with the approval of the chief minister in favour of Mohammad Ayub, son of Sher Khan, and the first instalment of Rs968,000 was deposited in the National Bank of Pakistan, district council branch, on Oct 13, 1992.

Later, he recalled, all allotments/grants made in violation of the law at the rates lower than the market value from Jan 1, 1985 were cancelled.

However, he said, the cancelled grants were allowed to be regularised by a land committee, headed by a retired judge of the SHC.

The counsel said the land committee issued regularisation orders on settlement of payment of the differential cost by the allottee.

He said it was apparent from the record that the NAB authorities were well aware of the fact of regularisation of land by the land committee unanimously, yet in a bid to cause harassment, undue arrest and humiliation to the petitioner, the National Accountability Bureau issued the notice.

The counsel said that since the petition fell within the definition of the accused as provided in Section 5-A of the NAO, 1999, he reasonably apprehended his arrest. He asked the court to grant pre-arrest bail to the petitioner.

Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2017