KARACHI  -  The Sindh High Court on Monday barred private schools from increasing tuition fee by more than five percent.

The SHC larger bench comprising Justice Aqeel Ahmed Abbasi, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Ashraf Jehan has issued the judgment on identical petitions filed by private school students through their parents against exorbitant increase of school fee in each academic year. The petitions submitted increasing of fee in a same academic year is against the law, and also violation of Sindh Private Educational institution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2002. Earlier, the court had reserved judgment after hearing final arguments from both the sides in June.

In its final ruling, the court has termed that increase of more than five per cent in the tuition fee charged by schools is illegal. The Sindh government also opposed the raise and contended that the schools could not increase the fees without approval from the competent authority. Petitioners Bushra Jabeen, Arshad Fawad, Mohammad Shariq Feroz and hundreds of other parents have challenged the increases in tuition fees by four private schools in violation of the ordinance.

In their final arguments, the petitioners’ counsel had pleaded the court to retrain the school managements and owners from running the school as profitable organizations.

The lawyers contended that education was included in the basic necessities of life like food and health care, and the government had authority to stop the private schools from profiteering. The counsels submitted that the government had validly passed the act and delegated powers to the authority to make rules on the fees structure which were not contested.  The Supreme Court in its earlier judgment had observed that the government was bound to take steps against profiteering on essential commodities.

In his arguments, the additional advocate general of Sindh (AAG) had submitted that government had the authority to regulate the private schools with regard to increases in tuition fees and the private schools could only increase the tuition fees with the approval of the competent authority as per the relevant laws.

The AAG submitted that the private schools could not increase fees by more than five per cent and the government did not allow any private school to increase the tuition fee. The private schools’ counsel submitted that the government authority to regulate the fee structure and other relevant rules had been challenged in the Supreme Court and requested the court to adjourn the matter till the disposal of the case.

Notices issued to Rao, others

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Monday again issued notices to suspended SSP Malir, Rao Anwar, home department and others sought replies on two petitions regarding the transfer of cases against Rao Anwar.

A division bench headed by Chief Justice Muhammad Ali M. Sheikh conducted hearing on two petitions filed by Muhammad Khan, father of Naqeebullah Mehsud, seeking transfer of two cases against former SSP Malir, Rao Anwar from the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) No 2 to another court. The suspended SSP Malir and his police party is facing trail in two cases pertaining to kill Naqeebullah and three others in staged encounter, and another case is to launch a fake FIR against them for possession of explosives and illegal weapons.

Counseling on behalf of the petitioner, Faisal Siddiqui advocate pleaded the court to restrain the trail court of anti terrorist court No-2 for further proceeding of the cases until the judgment on the pleas.

The plaintiff’s lawyer argued that Rao Anwar and other respondents did not submit their reply despite the SHC notice. The bench was informed that the main suspect Rao Anwar refused to collect the SHC notice.

The SHC bench again issued notices to the former SSP Malir and sought reply from ATC No-2 and others by September 24.

Earlier, the petitioner’s counsel pleaded to transfer the cases to another trial court, as the trail court had lost its credibility by allegedly providing benefits to the accused party.

A joint investigation team (JIT) had later found that the four had been falsely implicated, with the court later ruling that Mehsud had no extremist tendencies. Two FIRs were then filed against Anwar one by the police and other by Mehsud’s father for falsely implicating Mehsud. Anwar was granted bail in both the cases. Advocate Siddiqui contended that the trail court of ATC was not conducting the trial fairly. He said that they did not trust the ATC court and wanted the case to be shifted to a different court.

Mohammad Khan, father of Naqeebullah, the South Waziristan-native who was murdered in a fake police encounter in January, said in his petition that the key accused Rao Anwar and his subordinates had been booked for murdering his son and three other citizens in a fake encounter in Shah Latif Town on January 13.

In his prior arguments, the petitioner’s lawyer, Advocate Faisal Siddiqui said the trial court had developed a bias in favour of Anwar and his subordinate officers, and that bias was apparent from the fact that the presiding officer had to date failed to consider and pass any order on the written objections filed by the applicant.