ISLAMABAD, April 30: Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday declared the non-refund policy of all the educational institutions as illegal and directed the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to formulate a policy that safeguards the students’ interests.

Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of the IHC passed this order while deciding the petition of a student who got admission at Comsats Institute of Information Technology (CIIT) in BS Computer Science programme.

The petitioner deposited Rs69,000 as admission fee but then deposited another Rs85,000 at FAST University when he received an admission offer for the same programme by them.

The CIIT, however, refused to refund his admission fee when he informed them of his admission at FAST University and asked for his money. The Comsats administration told him that due to their non-refund policy, the fee, once deposited, could not be returned to anyone.

The court observed the policy was neither rational nor legal. It directed the HEC to restructure the policy and bring the same in conformity with the court’s orders.

The court observed: “There is no statutory provision through which the entire fee deposited by the students can be forfeited and non-refund of fee to a student who leaves the institution at the very initial stage is against the principles of justice.”

The order further said the educational institutions’ approach in parting education appeared to have commercial orientation and “due to this very reason, such policies are introduced to squeeze money from the students who, in the compelling circumstances, are forced to submit an undertaking regarding acceptance of all terms and conditions”. The order stressed that educational institutions cannot be allowed to operate purely on commercial considerations.

Justice Siddiqui said such policies, in fact, burdened the entire family and there were instances where brilliant students had been deprived of education for good as their families were not financially so strong as to deposit fee at different institutions to secure admission for them.

He said: “The institutes’ management is expected to demonstrate parental conduct with the students instead of dealing with them like a businessman.

“Availing better opportunity is the right of every student and it should not be treated as an offence.”He, however, said the institutions might be allowed by the HEC to deduct certain amount from the deposited fee against their expenses on the services made available to the students till their stay with them.

The petitioner, Usman Syed, through his counsel Barrister Omer Farooq adopted before the court that he applied for admission in the bachelor programme at CIIT, Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute (GIKI) and FAST University, simultaneously, in 2010.

He said the CIIT on July 7, 2010 sent him an offer letter for admission and he deposited the admission fee. On July 19, 2010, the FAST University also approved his admission and asked him to deposit the fee which he did. According to the petitioner, on July 29, 2010, he approached the additional Registrar CIIT Nadeemuddin Qureshi who refused to refund the fee saying that no such practice prevailed at Comsats.

Raja Abid Hussain, counsel for the CIIT told the court that petitioner deposited the admission fee after accepting the terms and conditions mentioned in the offer letter.

He said, the institution announced the opening and closing dates for admissions and reserved the seats for those students who met the criteria adding that because of the admission of the petitioner, the other aspirants were denied the same because of the limited number of seats. He pointed out that CIIT operates under CIIT Ordinance 2000 and its policies were formulated in accordance with the said ordinance.

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