The Supreme Court on Thursday while hearing a case pertaining to exorbitant fees charged by private schools ordered the Law and Justice Commission to prepare a report on the cutting back of facilities given to students and the dismissal of teachers following its earlier order to reduce fees.
The court also reiterated its December order to private schools to reduce fees in excess of Rs5,000 by 20 per cent, with Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar suggesting that an implementation bench be set up after the final hearing of the case.
A three-judge SC bench headed by Justice Nisar was told the by the Supreme Court Bar Association President Amanullah Kanrani that along with reducing its fees, the Beaconhouse School System had started treating its enrolled students like stepchildren.
"My own children were behaved poorly with," Kanrani told the bench.
"The schools are showing their reaction after being ordered to reduce their fees," Justice Nisar observed, expressing annoyance over how "this is the reverence that these educated people have for the court's decision", and how directors of educational institutions are paid millions of rupees in salaries.
He noted that after the December order, schools had started decreasing the facilities they offer.
The Law and Justice Commission secretary told the court that one school had said it wouldn't teach the Quran anymore and subsequently reduce its fee by Rs1,000.
Another school wrote to parents asking them to educate their children in a co-educational school, the secretary said, adding that the school would reduce its fee by Rs1,500.
A school in Islamabad wrote to parents saying that after the Supreme Court's "unfair decision" it was forced to decrease the quality of its standard of education, the secretary briefed the court. The court then summoned the school's owner.
The Law and Justice Commission official told the bench that only schools whose fees are in excess of Rs5,000 are decreasing their fees.
Justice Nisar asserted that the Supreme Court's order would be applicable to private schools across the country.
Private Schools Association President Zafran Elahi told the court that if schools returned one month's fees as ordered by the court, they would have to shut down.
"Then shut down," the chief justice said. "I will show how to shut them down. If you wish to close the schools, close them," he added.
"You are earning billions off schools," Justice Nisar observed. "The government has been unable to make up for the shortage of schools. In fact, private schools have failed government schools."
Amicus curiae Faisal Siddiqui told the court that private schools don't wish to have themselves regulated and believe the court is exceeding its authority. "But if the administration doesn't play its role then the court will."
He added that the court's interim order was suitable.
Beaconhouse School System lawyer Shahid Hamid said that there should be a regulatory authority for schools in each district.
"For six months, there was no priority given to education," he contended in court.
"Why not talk about the last 70 years?" Justice Faisal Arab asked the lawyer.
"The federal government does not oversee education since the 18th Amendment," Hamid explained.
Justice Arab observed that different things are being taught in different provinces.
The court ordered the Law and Justice Commission to submit a report on the decrease in facilities offered by schools and the dismissal of teachers in the wake of its December order, and reiterated its earlier order to reduce fees above Rs5,000.