Private schools lose case against fee cut

Published May 7, 2021
The Private Schools Association on Thursday lost their case against the government decision of a 20pc cut in the monthly tuition fee. — AFP/File
The Private Schools Association on Thursday lost their case against the government decision of a 20pc cut in the monthly tuition fee. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Private Schools Association on Thursday lost their case against the government decision of a 20pc cut in the monthly tuition fee.

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) ruled that private schools were profit-making commercial entities and their profit and loss could only be determined through substantial evidence.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah dismissed the petition filed by the Private Schools Association Islamabad, observing that the court cannot interfere in the policy decision taken in the wake of the Covid-19 situation.

The petitioners had challenged a notification issued on May 3 by the Private Educational Institutions Regulatory Authority (Peira).

In the notification, Peira had advised private educational institutions charging a monthly tuition fee of more than Rs8,000 to grant a concession of 20pc in the fee with effect from April 2021 till the reopening of the schools.

The policy decision has been taken in the wake of the recent spike in Covid-19 positive cases, the court noted.

Counsel for the petitioner association contended that the policy decision was taken without affording an opportunity of hearing to the affected stakeholders.

The Islamabad Capital Territory Private Educational Institutions (Registration and Regulation) Act 2013 and the rules do not empower Peira to issue policy guidelines in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic crisis, she argued.

The counsel added that the impugned notification was bereft of jurisdiction and, therefore, it was to be declared as void ab initio.

But the court observed that “it is not disputed that the impugned notification describes a policy decision taken by the authority in the context of dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic crisis. It is also an admitted fact that there is a recent spike in the spread of the pandemic.”

Moreover, the policy of 20pc reduction is applicable on those private educational institutions which charge a fee of more than Rs8,000.

“It is not the case of the petitioner association that the policy decision notified vide the impugned notification has a confiscatory effect,” the court noted.

Justice Minallah remarked that private schools were engaged in a commercial profit-making business.

The Covid-19 crisis has exposed human species to enormous challenges.

These are indeed difficult, uncertain and extraordinary times.

Referring to an IHC judgment of Nov 18, 2020, passed on a petition against the ban on marriage halls, the court noted: “It is a challenge, not only for the government but every citizen to contain the spread of the second wave of the pandemic. It is not a choice but a duty of the citizens to contribute towards this national goal.”

Justice Minallah remarked that “it is important for every individual to realise that he or she as the case may be could be the next victim. The acts or omissions of those who do not display responsible conduct as citizens inevitably expose others to harm and expose them to the life threatening risks relatable to Covid-19.”

He added that “in many countries such conduct is likely to expose a violator to the imposition of heavy fines, besides being sent to prison upon conviction. It is, therefore, the duty of every citizen to prevent the propagation of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Decisions of the government are based on expert advice which must be respected and followed in order to avert a catastrophic social, economic and life threatening crisis, the court order stated, adding it is the duty of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) to ensure implementation of the decisions.

The impugned notification dated May 3 is regarding a policy decision taken to meet the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic crisis, it said. “This court is not inclined to interfere with the policy decision described,” the court observed.

“Moreover, the policy decision is not justiciable nor this court is inclined to exercise its extraordinary discretionary jurisdiction under Article 199 of the Constitution. The petition is, therefore, accordingly dismissed,” the court declared.

Published in Dawn, May 7th, 2021

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