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LHC sets aside eight per cent increase in private schools’ fees

LAHORE:19 February: The Lahore High Court has partially set aside the orders of the District Registration Authority (DRA) that permitted eight per cent increase in the fees of private schools for being in violation of a Supreme Court judgement. “It is declared that the impugned order passed by DRA, partly being not in conformity with judgement of the Apex Court, are declared to be illegal and without lawful authority,” said a verdict released by Justice Sajid Mahmood Sethi on Tuesday on petitions against the private schools for receiving excessive fee. The judge had reserved the verdict on Feb 11. The judge ruled that five per cent increase in the base fee would be made in the beginning of the academic year first in July 2017, second in July 2018 and third in July 2019. Judge says DRA will set up complaint cells “For the purpose of recalculation of fee of private schools having monthly fee of Rs4,000 and above, base fee would be the fee existing in January 2017, the judge said in the decision. The judge made it clear that the apex court had ordered the reduction of 20 per cent in fees for schools charging monthly fee of Rs5,000 and above in December 2018. Therefore, he said, the schools could not claim arrears in this respect for any reason or under any circumstances as held by the apex court. The judge observed that the private schools as well as parents/students were bound to obey the direction of the SC and to facilitate the process of implementation of the decision in letter and spirit. Justice Sethi directed the DRA to closely monitor the whole process in order to ensure strict compliance of the SC decision and observances of applicable law, rules and regulations. He said the DRA would also set up complaint cells to deal with future grievances of the parties. The judge disposed of the petitions filed by the Judicial Activism Panel on behalf of the parents, students and other individuals. Advocates Azhar Siddique, Mian Asghar Ali, Salma Riaz, Ahmad Imran Ghazi and others represented the petitioners. The counsel argued that the parents and students were facing difficulties due to the exorbitant fees being taken by private schools. They asked the court to restrain the private educational institutions from collecting exorbitant fees and immediately declare the decision as illegal. The private schools also filed petitions pleading that the DRA had been wrongly interpreting the SC’s judgement.Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2020.