PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court (PHC) has directed the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Private Schools Regulatory Authority (KPPSRA) and the fee committee to make certain decisions within two months about vacations fee and pick and drop service for the private educational institutions.
In a detailed 22-page decision, the court also directed the KPPSRA to comply with and implement the Private School Regulatory Authority Act/Regulations forthwith.
However, the court vacated the stay order on fee submissions and stated that the arrears of fee, which were stayed by the court, be recovered in easy installments, ie equivalent to 25 percent, every month.
“Regarding charging of fee, all types including annual charges, promotions fee and monthly fee, this court cannot give any direction given the regulations so notified as already held that the alternative remedy is available. In the regulations, so notified, the regulation-7 has been introduced, according to which regulatory authority shall establish a fee regulation committee which shall devise criteria for categorization of schools, the maximum fee to be charged from students in each category and minimum remuneration payable to a teacher of the school.
This committee is further authorised in respect of all matters relating to fee concession, expenditure sharing of fee payment, arrangements of the schools with the public sector, the annual increase in fee and all other matters relating to or ancillary therewith,” stated a detailed judgment authored by PHC Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth.
The amended petition was filed by Peshawar Bar Association and parents through Zahidullah Zahid, Nazish Muzaffar, Abbas Khan Sangeen, Sanaullah and Syed Bilal Jan.
On the other hand, besides Additional Advocate General Syed Qaiser Ali Shah, the private schools were represented by Abdul Sattar Khan, Fida Gul, Malik Haroon Iqbal, Ayesha Hameed and Arbab Kalimullah, while Private School Regulatory Authority was represented by Barrister Asadul Mulk.
The judgment stated that the Supreme Court in its judgment on May 9, 2019, while dilating on the issue in reference to Punjab and Sindh, has provided a cap in between 5 to 8 percent increase, and this judgment referred to be considered by the authority, whereas in the regulation of KP, the cap up to 10 percent has been provided, which is a debatable issue keeping in view the standard and earning capacity of the individuals in the region.
In this respect, the court stated that the petitioners were advised to lodge complaints before the competent fee committee to have a settlement.
“In case of unreasonableness or none decision of the said committee, they would be having the right to take the matter to the court of law and the court is supposed to dilate upon the issue as the public at large is the sufferer,” stated the judgment.
During arguments, it said, the court has been informed that several schools have been given registration without conducting an enquiry about the space, premises, playgrounds and other facilities. It was further informed that neither any committees as provided in the Act/Regulations have been appointed/notified, nor is the government taking an interest for the formulation of the rules thereunder.
“Admittedly, none has challenged the vires of KPPSRA and regulations as a whole. Indeed, some of the sections/provisions of the Act are called in question. In fact, in the Act itself here is a complete mechanism for settlement of the disputes and thereafter review and revision. Likewise in Regulations 2018, the grievance redressal mechanism of the regulatory authority is also provided,” the court explained.
Even otherwise, the court explained, according to the law of the land and established precedents on record, the availability of alternative remedy, in the shape of departmental proceedings/complaints, etc, the direct approach to the high court in the writ petition is discouraged.
“We feel that after going through the entire theme and scheme of the Act and Regulations, there is a complete mechanism provided therein and before approaching that forum, it would not be appropriate to enter in the dispute in writ jurisdiction. Yes, if that authority fails to decide the matter judiciously or not attending to the complaints/grievances of the aggrieved person and is not performing what he is required to do under the law/regulation, then the writ can be entertained as per mandate of Article 199 of the Constitution; therefore, at present the writ petitions in this respect are not maintainable,” the court declared.