Private schools, parents may agree on 20pc fee reduction, SHC told

Updated June 04, 2020

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A petition in SHC was moved by the parents of some students seeking implementation of the concession in tuition fees. — Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons/File
A petition in SHC was moved by the parents of some students seeking implementation of the concession in tuition fees. — Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons/File

KARACHI: The provincial law officer as well as lawyers for private schools and parents of students on Wednesday informed the Sindh High Court that they would try their best to reach a consensus till June 10 about 20 per cent concession in school fees.

A petition was moved by the parents of some students seeking implementation of the concession in tuition fees as provided in the Sindh Covid-19 Emergency Relief Ordinance, 2020. Another petition was filed by some private schools and their associations challenging some provisions of the ordinance regarding 20pc concession in tuition fees during the lockdown period.

When the petitions came up for hearing before a two-judge bench headed by Justice Omar Sial, counsel for schools Arshad Tayebaly insisted that they would charge 100pc fee and 20pc concession may be given to those students willing to avail it but subject to the final verdict in these petitions.

However, the lawyers for parents, Mohammad Vawda, opposed it and argued that it would be a violation of the Sindh Covid-19 Emergency Relief Ordinance, 2020.

Private schools say they can provide over 20pc concession to only those parents directly affected by pandemic

The counsel for private schools contended that the government might grant subsidies for school if it wanted to reduce the fee.

Mr Vawda argued that most of the parents could not pay the entire fee due to the ongoing lockdown.

Sindh Advocate General Salman Talibuddin suggested that schools might issue fee vouchers accordingly to those parents who were willing to pay 100pc, but he made it clear that the ordinance was still in the field.

The bench observed that the law enacted by the government had to be followed and said that since there were summer vacations in courts and as an interim arrangement the method of payment of concession fee may be evolved.

The bench in its order said, “Learned counsel for the parities as well as learned Advocate General, Sindh request for some time within which they will try their level best to reach a consensus on the line of action to be taken until August, 2020 when the regular hearing of cases will commence after the summer vacations.”

Adjourning the matter till June 10, the bench said that the parities would apprise it about the consensus, if any, to be reached by them regarding payment of concession fee on the next date of hearing.

The private schools and their associations moved the SHC for a third time against 20pc concession in tuition fee stating that imposition of a mandatory concession to even those parents not affected by the pandemic was unjust and in clear violation of the fundamental rights and right to trade and property.

The petitioners contended that they were voluntarily willing to provide more than 20pc concession to those parents directly affected by the pandemic.

It may be recalled that initially, the directorate of inspection/registration of private institutions had issued a notification on April 1 for private schools to provide relief in the form of concession of at least 20pc in the April and May fees in the view of Covid-19 outbreak.

However, the private schools had challenged the same in the SHC, but the petition was disposed of for being infructuous since the directorate issued a special order about fee concession superseding the April 1 notification.

The private schools again petitioned the SHC against the special order and also obtained an interim stay order. However, the SHC had vacated the stay order after it was informed that the Sindh Covid-19 Emergency Relief Ordinance was promulgated and it had superseded the April 28 special order. According to the ordinance, the 20pc concession in tuition fee will remain enforced during the lockdown and pandemic.

Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2020