The Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP), Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, on Monday, observed that parents opt for private schools for education of their children when the state fails in its constitutional obligation of providing free and compulsory education in the public sector educational institutions of the country.
The top judge gave these remarks while heading a three-member bench of the apex court hearing a case concerning the exorbitant fees charged by private schools. Justice Faisal Arab and Justice Ijazul Ahsen were other members of the bench.
The chief justice said it was the responsibility of the state to fulfill its constitutional obligation of providing free and compulsory education in all the public sector educational institutions of the country.
“The state is not doing its job of providing free and compulsory education to the children as enshrined in Article 25-A of the Constitution,” he said, adding that it was the state’s responsibility to provide free and compulsory education to the youth.
The Article 25-A states that the state shall provide free and compulsory education to children of the age of five to sixteen years in such manner as may be determined by the law.
The chief justice said parents had the choice of selecting the private sector educational institutions for imparting quality education to their children if they could afford it.
“If one has to go to Dubai, he has the choice of selecting an airline providing the best traveling facilities. Can the court ask the Qatar Airways to charge the same fares charged by the Itehad Airlines?” the chief justice asked.
Arguing before the court, Faisal Siddiqui, counsel for parents, submitted that the private sector educational institutions increase fees after every three months, while the law prohibits it and allows increase after every three years.
He further submitted that the private schools collect donations and huge amounts every year at the time of admissions. “The law prohibits collection of donations from students for a development project,” he said.
“You are saying that the private educational institutions are doing business,” Justice Ijazul Ahsen asked the counsel to which he replied in the affirmative.
Siddiqui also deliberated upon the Article 18 of the Constitution relating to the freedom of trade, business or profession. Justice Faisal Arab observed that doctors charging high fees also object to the charging of fat fees by private schools.
“I cannot understand why doctors sitting in the same plaza having all the facilities like air-conditioners charge different fees. Some charge Rs 2,000 and some Rs 8,000,” he said.
In the instant case, the Supreme Court had on December 13, 2018 ordered the administrations of private schools charging high fees to decrease fees by 20 per cent and return half of the fees they had charged for the summer vacation.
The court had ruled that its order was applicable to all private schools across the country whose fees were in excess of Rs 5,000.
Meanwhile, the Sindh High Court (SHC), Monday, barred the private schools from receiving the summer vacation fees in advance. The high court directed the school administrations not to receive advance fees and sought complaints in case of violation of its orders.
“The Supreme Court had refunded one-month fees last year but for what reasons charges are being collected this year against the court’s order,” the court asked.
In its order, the high court warned that the private schools would be facing contempt of court notices if they were found receiving advance summer vacation fees.