ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday ignored a request of private schools to grant an interim relief to them against the Peshawar High Court’s (PHC) judgement of Nov 8, 2017 in which they were ordered to charge 50 per cent fees from their students during summer vacations.

“Why don’t we direct the government to take over all private schools charging heavily?” observed Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar while heading a three-judge SC bench that had taken up a set of appeals by different private schools of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa against the Nov 8, 2017 order of the Peshawar High Court in which private schools had been urged to charge 50pc fees during the summer vacation.

It was a dereliction of duty on the part of the government that they had never given attention to the education system as a result of which children of poor family could not study in private schools charging exorbitantly, the CJP said.

While referring to his example, CJP Nisar deplored that he would would have been a clerk working in some department had he not studied in a good school.

SC ignores private schools’ request to grant relief against PHC’s order of charging 50pc fee during summer vacation

The parents of students must be very happy as they did not deposit the fee during the summer vacation and they must have spent the saved money for excursion along with their children, he said.

The CJP said that according to the Constitution, the state was obligated to provide free education to all children in the country. Alternatively the government should pay fees of poor families’ children in private schools, he added.

The apex court ordered the government to issue public notice in two newspapers inviting parents of students to appear before the court on July 12 and assist it in reaching a definite conclusion.

The court deplored that the two previous governments had failed to give preference to the education sector.

Senior counsel Shahid Hamid represented the Beacon House School System, whereas Salman Akram Raja appeared on behalf of the Private Education Network KP, the provincial Education Forum and Abdul Hafeez Khan Niazi.

A petition moved by Mr Raja pleaded that the verdict should not have made directions about the functioning of private schools in KP that travel beyond the regulatory framework enforced by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Private Schools Regulatory Authority Act, 2017.

According to the petition, the high court cannot impose a complete ban beyond 3pc on any increase in the annual and tuition fees charged by private schools in KP when Section 8(2)(i) of the law allows annual increases of up to 10pc without regulatory permission, provided such increase is made only once during an academic year and announced one month prior to the commencement of an academic year.

The fee increases beyond 10pc are not to be sanctioned by the regulatory authority on a case-to-case basis keeping in view the particular facts and circumstances of each school that may justify an increase in excess of 10pc, it says.

Similarly, it adds, the high court order cannot direct a kinship concession in tuition fee of at least 50pc as regards the siblings of an existing student admitted to a private school when Section 8(2)(h) of the Act of 2017 states that the kinship concession shall not be less than 20pc of the normal fee.

Likewise, the high court cannot impose a complete ban on the establishment of any fresh/new school pending the formulation of policy, law and regulations as directed by the high court with respect to the school building, playground, assembly premises, hall, furniture, libraries, washrooms, water facilities and laboratory as well as tuition fee, annual fee and the management and charges of canteen, the petition says.

The high court cannot direct shifting of existing schools to buildings with playgrounds and other facilities, it says, adding that the high court has not appreciated that different charges, such as transportation charges and tuition fees, were spread out over 12 months of the year, including the period of vacations, so as to facilitate parents by distributing the burden evenly across the full calendar year.

Thus, no judicial exception can be taken to this facilitative measure that is meant to benefit parents, the petition says.

Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2018

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