close
Advertisement
Can't connect right now! retry

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!
May 24, 2020

Govt, Dirpis asked to reply to pleas for and against 20pc school fee concession

Karachi

May 24, 2020

The Sindh High Court (SHC) has issued notices to the provincial advocate general and directorate of private institutions on petitions of schools and NGOs challenging or supporting the emergency relief ordinance that binds educational institutes to charge no more than 80 per cent of the total monthly fees.

Petitioner Rasheed A Razvi had approached the court for the enforcement and implementation of some provisions related to the payment of school tuition fees and the reduction accorded by the provincial government during the preventive lockdown against local transmission of the novel coronavirus as part of the Sindh COVID-19 Emergency Relief Ordinance 2020.

The petitioner requested the court to direct the provincial education department to take action against the private educational institutions violating the government order about providing 20 per cent concession in tuition fees to students for the months of April and May.

The provincial law officer said the relief ordinance is still in field, so in case of any violation, the relevant authority will take action in accordance with the law.

After the preliminary hearing of the petition, the SHC’s division bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar issued notices to the provincial advocate general and the Directorate of Inspections & Registration of Private Institutions Sindh (Dirpis) for filing their comments on June 3.

The court also issued notices to the Dirpis director general to file comments on the petition of private schools challenging the vires of the emergency relief ordinance that binds educational institutions to charge no more than 80 per cent of the total monthly fees.

The British Overseas School and other private institutes said the ordinance has been promulgated at a time when the lockdown has effectively been lifted and many of the industries have already been allowed to resume operations, so impugned legislation at such a belated stage contradicts with the government’s own policy.

The private schools’ counsel said the piece of legislation has been introduced at a time when people of the province are no longer seriously affected and are no longer under a strict lockdown, raising serious concerns regarding the introduction of the said legislation at this stage.

He said the impugned piece of legislation provides that relief will be given to the affected people of the province, but the Sindh government under the guise of the impugned ordinance is seeking its enforcement as applicable to all parents, including those who are not financially or otherwise affected on account of the pandemic.

He added that private schools across the province are willing to provide concession to parents even higher than 20 per cent, but to only those who have been affected, as the mandatory imposition of concession to all parents is unjust.

The court was requested to declare the impugned relief ordinance as well as its Section 3(2)(a) ultra vires the constitution because it places unreasonable restrictions on the fundamental rights of the petitioners.

This past Wednesday the SHC had vacated its interim stay order against the provincial education department’s directives to private educational institutions for mandatory 20 per cent concession in the tuition fees of April and May in view of the current lockdown following the promulgation of the COVID-19 emergency relief ordinance that bound these institutions to not charge more than 80 per cent of the total monthly fees.

The court on May 5 had suspended the implementation of the education department’s directives to private educational institutions for the mandatory concession as these institutions had challenged the Sindh government’s newly introduced amendments in the rules relating to private educational institutions.

These institutions had impugned the provincial government’s notification about the newly introduced amendments, whereby Rule 19-A to Rule 19-E were inserted after Rule 19 of the Sindh Private Educational Institutions (Regulations & Control) Rules 2005, and the subsequent notification issued by the education department directing these institutions to provide 20 per cent tuition fee concession to students.

Sindh Advocate General Salman Talibuddin filed a statement along with the copy of the Sindh COVID-19 Emergency Relief Ordinance 2020, which binds the educational institutions to not charge more than 80 per cent of the total monthly fees.

He said the ordinance has superseded the education department’s special order issued on April 28 to private educational institutions with regard to the 20 per cent fee concession order to these institutions.

The petitioners’ counsel said that since the other clauses of the impugned special order as well as the newly inserted rules 19-A to 19-E have also been challenged, the petition should be heard in respect thereof.

The SHC’s division bench headed by Justice Nadeem Akhtar observed that the interim stay order passed earlier need not be extended, as clauses (ii), (iii) and (iv) of the impugned special order issued on April 28 have now lost the field in view of the promulgation of the COVID-19 ordinance.

Vacating the interim stay order, the court adjourned the hearing of the petition for a date to be fixed by the office. The court also directed the counsel of the petitioner, who sought enforcement of the government’s amendments in the rules, to satisfy the court on the maintainability of the petition, as the petitioner’s prayer to declare the amendments intra vires the constitution was premature, and the amendments were still in the field.

The court observed that the other prayer has become infructuous, as the education department’s directives of April 28 have now been superseded by the COVID-19 relief ordinance.

It is pertinent to mention here that the Sindh government had on April 27 made certain amendments in the private educational institutions rules by inserting rules 19-A to 19-E in place of the original Rule 19, giving powers to the registration authority defined under the said rules.

The education department’s private educational institutions registration authority, by exercising its powers under Rule 19-A, had issued a special order on April 28 about 20 per cent mandatory concession in the fee of students for the months of April and May 2020.