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ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar on Thursday stopped private medical colleges from admitting students or even advertising admissions until further notice.

While hearing a suo motu case regarding high fees charged by private medical colleges and the absence of a uniform admissions criteria, the chief justice said the court had fixed Rs850,000 as the annual fee for private medical colleges and would not tolerate even a rupee more.

While boarding and meals are not included in the Rs850,000, he said, some colleges were exploiting students by charging Rs3.4 million per year.

He stopped private medical colleges from admitting students, but added that the Pakistan Association of Private Medical and Dental Institutions (PAMI) would be allowed to give its point of view.

He said there was a need to produce quality doctors, but unfortunately traders had entered the field and were running medical colleges.

The chief justice said he was aware of how goods were brought to colleges just before their council inspections on motorcycles, adding that he was aware of how inspections were carried out and that he had pictures and other information.

The chief justice also said the fee structure at Aga Khan University Hospital was very high.

A representative of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) informed the court that the agency had recovered Rs745m from colleges and returned it to students. He asked the court to direct the University of Health Sciences Lahore to make a centralised admissions policy for all colleges.

Private medical colleges over the years have increased their fees and introduced a number of new charges, and have also been blamed for taking donations for students in exchange for admissions.

In 2010, the SC took suo motu notice of the issue of medical colleges’ fees, and it was decided that the per student fee would be Rs550,000 and would be increased by 7pc.

In 2013, the fee was increased to Rs642,000 but a number of promises made by private medical colleges – such as providing 5pc free beds to patients in attached hospitals and other facilities for students – were not implemented.

In 2016, the PMDC introduced a central induction system for students to stop private colleges from receiving donations, but colleges refused to implement it and obtained stay orders to that effect from courts across the country.

In 2017, the PMDC once again began negotiating with private colleges and it was decided that the annual fee would be increased to Rs800,000 with the condition that colleges provide facilities and quality education to students and stop receiving donations from them.

Moreover, colleges were directed to admit students through a centralised induction system to prevent donations.

However, in November the same year, a Lahore High Court bench comprising Justice Jawad Hassan and Justice Ayesha Malik allowed private medical colleges to admit students on their own as it believed that the PMDC was not empowered to make such decisions.

On Jan 12, 2018, the council was dissolved by the SC and a nine-member ad hoc committee chaired by retired SC Justice Mian Shakirullah Jan was formed to run the council’s affairs. Since then, the new management of the council has been working but has stopped interactions with the media, leaving little information as to its performance.

Published in Dawn, July 13th, 2018