May ask govt to close or take control of private schools, remarks SC

May ask govt to close or take control of private schools, remarks SC

Islamabad (Staff Report): The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday remarked that private schools can be closed or nationalised.

A three-member bench comprising Justice Gulzar Ahmed, Justice Faisal Arbab and Justice Ijazul Ahsan heard a case regarding the use of contemptuous language in a letter addresses to the top judge by the administrations of two private schools in Islamabad.

During the hearing, Justice Gulzar Ahmed remarked that education had been made a business commodity. “Why should we not direct the government to take control of private school or close your schools?” he added.

Irked over the letter’s content, Justice Ahsan observed that the language used was contemptuous. The private school’s counsel clarified that the administration did not intent to disrespect the court.

Last month, the apex court issued a detail written verdict, directing to all private schools across the country charging more than Rs5,000 monthly to reduce their fee by 20 percent and increase the fee by 5 per cent on an annual basis.

In its detailed judgement, the apex court has clarified that its order applies to all private schools which charge fee in excess of Rs5,000 per month throughout the country, without any exception.

Private schools charging less than Rs5,000 in monthly fee are exempt from the order.

On Dec 13, the SC ordered all the private schools, charging more than Rs 5000 fee per month across the country, to slash the fee by 20 percent.

A three-member bench of the apex court headed by then Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar heard a suo motu case against increase in tuition fee by private schools.

As the hearing got under way, the CJP remarked that the top court was not bound by decisions made by high courts.  "The [Supreme] Court will make a decision on its own as to how much reduction [in fee] is appropriate," he observed.

During the hearing, the court was informed by Ayesha Hamid, a lawyer for the schools, that all were ready to reduce their fees by 8 per cent.

However, the top judge responded that the decrease was much too small.

In an interim order passed by the chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar, the apex court directed the private schools to return half of the fee charged during the summer vacations within a span of two months.

‘No school would expel any student,’ the top judge directed.

The chief justice observed that the private schools are allowed to increase the fee by 5 per cent on an annual basis.

The hearing was attended by private schools' lawyer, deputy auditor general and the chairman of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).

The bench also ordered FBR to probe income tax returns of the owners and directors of private schools.