Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa on Monday, observed that the aim of the Supreme Court’s decision to impose private schools fee rise cap was to curb corruption.
While heading a three-judge Supreme Court bench, hearing a number of cases pertaining to education institutes and fees, he said the apex court capped the school fee rise to 5 percent because it was aware that the relevant government departments could grant permission to private schools to increase school fees up to 75 percent.
Counsel Makhdoom Ali Khan, who is representing educational institutes in the cases challenged the Rule 7(3) of the Sindh Private Educational Institutions (Regulation and Control) Rules 2005, arguing that schools were not demanding the court to allow them to increase school fee percentages by 10, 15 or 25 percent annually. But, were questioning the restrictions imposed by the Sindh government upon itself, in relation to looking into the applications of schools demanding increase by more than 5 percent annually.
According to the counsel, this will close all potential possibilities for private schools, as everything pertaining to fee regulation would be determined by the Sindh government. He added these restrictions were in contradiction to the statute as well as to the Constitution.
“By introducing this limit, the Sindh government has virtually put fetters on its own discretion to allow increase more than 5 percent in view of the ground reality. Therefore, the decision has to meet the test of the constitutionality,” the counsel argued. Moreover, he demanded regulations to be introduced keeping in mind the interest of free competition, he added.
The CJP said despite school fee capping, none of the private institutes had gone out of business, however, a number of them expanded their businesses, opening new branches. He said the report by the auditor general was an eye-opener, as it highlighted how directors of a few institutes were earning millions and how billions of rupees were earned by these private institutes.
Justice Ijazul Ahsan, a member of the bench, observed that profits of numerous private schools had multiplied manifold, stating how they extracted money from parents in the form of security deposits and admission fees. He feared that the absence of fee regulation would encourage these institutes to operate a cartel.
The counsel, however, clarified that no evidence was ever presented by the Sindh government before the Sindh High Court or the Supreme Court to defend their claim that “private schools were flushed with windfall security deposits and admission fees.”
The Supreme Court postponed further proceedings for Tuesday hinting it might conclude the matter.