As the Supreme Court (SC) Lahore registry resumed hearing a suo motu case on the inflated fee structure of private medical and dental colleges in Punjab on Thursday, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar made it clear that "the court does not want money to be a hindrance in the way of an education".
The CJP had earlier this week taken notice of deteriorating standards in the medical profession and the unavailability of sufficient health facilities and launched an inquiry into the government's efforts towards improving the health sector.
Governor Punjab Muhammad Rafiq Rajwana's son, who had on Wednesday been accused of pressuring a female lawyer involved in the case, issued an unconditional apology in court today, claiming that the prosecutor in question, Advocate Anjum Hameed, was "like his mother" and that they had family ties as well.
Advocate Anjum had earlier told the court that Asif had been telephoning and texting her to offer admission to a student who was among her acquaintances only if she refrained from raising the issue in court.
When he was asked why he had called Advocate Anjum, Asif Rajwana said that the Vice Chancellor of Faisalabad University, Dr Farid — who had been suspended by the SC a day earlier — had asked him to do so.
The CJP expressed concerns over the fee structure of medical colleges and summoned the chief executives of all 14 private medical and dental colleges in Lahore to furnish details of their bank accounts and the amount of fee they charged from students. They were also asked to submit sworn affidavits on how they were meeting Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) criteria.
The colleges were directed to submit their prospectuses; the number of seats available and how many of them had been filled on merit and quota basis; and the charges collected from students besides fee fixed by the PMDC.
The court also restrained all unrecognised private medical colleges from offering admissions.
The two-judge bench hearing the case today asked the Punjab chief secretary to brief the court on the fee structure of medical colleges, and said that there must be a policy allowing students who could not afford to pay the fee to take admission in medical institutions.
The chief secretary, however, assured the court that the Punjab government had enough funds to ensure that students who could not afford a medical education due to lack of financial resources, could be admitted to colleges on the basis of merit.
The CJP, who is heading the bench, said the court would not "hesitate from contacting philanthropists if that is what it takes to allow lesser-privileged students to get a medical education."
Justice Nisar also ordered that the details of hospitals' bank accounts and other financial details be submitted in court in the next hearing.
The principal of Sharif Medical and Dental College also appeared in court today ─ much to the bench's dismay ─ as it had ordered the main trustee of the college — Nawaz Sharif — appear before the court.
The case was adjourned until Saturday.