KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Monday reserved its verdict after rehearing petitions city’s private schools for increasing their fees to over five per cent. A division bench of the court headed by Justice Muneeb Akhtar heard the petitions filed by city’s private schools against a two-member bench decision to throw out their petitions and allow a set of petitions of parents against increase of fees more than 5 percent.The private schools’ owners had filed appeal in the Supreme Court against the SHC decision. The SC had remanded the appeal back to the SHC to rehear the case. A division bench heard arguments from the petitioners’ counsels and an additional advocate general.The AAG submitted copy of “The Sindh Private Educational Institutions (Regulations and Control) Rules 2005, published in gazette notification of the provincial government. During the petitions’ hearing on May 29, 2017 it came to known that rules framed in 2005 were not notified in Sindh government’s gazette notification upon which the court had ordered the government to notify the same. According to the gazette notification of the Rules, the private schools can not increase the fees to over 5 percent annually. It said that any annual increase in excess to 5 percent was illegal.After concluding hearing of the petitioners counsel and law officer of the provincial government the court reserved its verdict. It is to be mentioned here that in October 2016, the SHC while allowing parents petitioners against the fee hike had directed the education department to enforce the restricted increase in fee and submit quarterly the audited accounts report of the private schools in court.The private schools had challenged the law stipulating them not to increase their fees to over five per cent within an academic year. Headed by the then Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, a two-judge bench had also ruled that no further enhancement shall be permitted until the re-registration of the schools which had increased their tuition fee over 5pc per year during the past three years.The bench announced its 16-page verdict on a number of identical petitions filed by the parents and the Generation’s School Private Limited and other private schools.The bench had directed the provincial education department to ensure enforcement of Sub-rule 7 m(3) of the Rules 2002 that bound the private institutions not to raise their fee more than 5pc within an academic year and further requiring them to revise fee structure with prior approval of the government.Expressing displeasure over the response of the private schools on the question of increasing fee, the bench had observed that they had always responded that the fee charged was commensurate with the facilities provided by the schools.“They claim that their business method is based on the open market principle of ‘you get – what you pay for’, which is a shameful admission in respect of the noble profession of imparting education,” the court had remarked in its judgment.The judges observed that the rift between the two sides was growing with every passing day because of failure of the education department to regulate private schools.“At the same time failure of the state to impart education through public schools is also giving impetus to private individuals to fill this vacuum resulting in mushrooming of private schools,” the court had noted.The court had also observed that the private schools were not following the mechanism for increasing fee, neither was there any compulsion on them by the education department to do so.According to the counsel of private schools, the cost of running a private school, hiring staff with high level of expertise, increased cost of utilities and taxes forces them to increase their tuition fees.He had said that the schools also had to afford the higher costs of installing effective security apparatus. Moreover the government coming up with enhanced wages and induction of students under free compulsory education laws into private schools added to their financial burden.The counsel contended that the private schools ought to have autonomy in its administration and financial affairs including fixation of fee to enable them impart education at the highest standards since these institutions do not receive any aid from the government.He was of the opinion that fixation of fee by the government was unreasonable, which amounts to intruding into the private affairs of educational institutions.The private schools owners had challenged the two-bench decision in SC which remanded back the petitions to SHC to rehear the same. Published in Daily Times, August 29th 2017.