ISLAMABAD    -   The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the Sindh High Court order and ruled that annual increase in the tuition fee of private schools, will be five percent.

The verdict was reserved last week by the three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa and comprising Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan and Justice Faisal Arab that was hearing a number of appeals against the cap on school fee introduced by the Sindh and Punjab governments, with not more than 5pc increase allowed for initial three years in the case of Sindh.

The court in its order stated that the arbitrarily determined cap of 5pc imposed under Rule 7 (3) and the manner by which it is to be enforced is an unreasonable restriction on carrying on a lawful business.

Increase of up to 8pc in an academic year without recourse to Registering Authority would be closer to the ground realities and at the same time save the department and the schools much of the inconvenience in the periodical revision of tuition fees, the order added.  The court directed the Government of Sindh to amend Rule 7(3) accordingly within a period of two months.

The court also unanimously held and declared that Section 7-A of the Punjab Private Educational Institutions (Promotion and Regulation) Ordinance, 1984, as amended by the Punjab Private Educational Institutions (Promotion and Regulation) (Amendment) Act, 2017 is intra vires the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973 and does not violate Articles 18, 23, 24 or 25-A thereof. The order stated “With a majority of two against one, we are not persuaded to interfere with Rule 7(3) of the Rules of 2005, with Faisal Arab, J. expressing the view that the restriction imposed by Rule 7(3) ibid is unreasonable and hence invalid.”

The Bench declared that upon decision of the main appeals in the terms noted above, all interim orders passed during the pendency of the appeals (including the order dated 13.12.2018 passed in Civil Appeal No.1095/2018 regarding reduction of fees by 20pc as an interim measure) have ceased to be effective, subject to recalculation of fee by using the fee prevailing in 2017 as the base fee, in accordance with the provision(s) of the Punjab Private Educational Institutions (Promotion and Regulation) (Amendment) Act, 2017 and onwards, for the Province of Punjab.  For the Province of Sindh, fees may be recalculated using the fee prevailing on 29.06.2017 as the base fee and onwards, in accordance with the Rules of 2005 (gazetted on 29.06.2017).

Provided that the schools shall not recover any arrears on account of the reduction in fee by reason of the interim order of this Court dated 13.12.2018 till the date of this judgment. Therefore, all the review petitions filed against the said interim order are disposed of in these terms.

In view of the fact that these appeals/petitions are being finally decided, all criminal original petitions and civil miscellaneous applications are disposed of.

The court also directed that all schools shall collect the fee, strictly in accordance with the procedure and time-frame provided by the law, the rules and regulations

including, but not limited to the Punjab Private Educational Institutions (Promotion and Regulation) Ordinance, 1984, as amended by the Punjab Private Educational Institutions (Promotion and Regulation) (Amendment) Act, 2017 and the Rules of 2005. The court also withdrew an order from last year passed by former Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar for private schools to reduce their tuition fee by 20pc. At the same time, the court barred administrations of schools to retrieve the money as outstanding charges.