KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) directed private schools to submit implementation reports of the court order which forbade them from increasing their fees in excess of 5 percent. A three-member bench comprising Justice Aqeel Abbasi, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Ashraf Jahan heard a contempt petition against non-implementation of a prior court directive pertaining to unchecked fee hikes by private schools. The bench directed the private schools to submit implementation reports covering revision of fee challans and new fee structures after reduction in tuition fees.During the hearing, the petitioner’s lawyer contended that the court had earlier directed private schools from increasing their school fees and reimburse additional amount they may have charged since September 20, 2017. Earlier on December 13, the Supreme Court (SC) also heard a plea against SHC’s ruling. The SC ordered the private schools to reduce their tuition fees by 20 percent. The lawyers representing private schools informed the SHC that it remained unclear whether the SC’s order would be in effect from the day it was announced. The SHC bench, however, expressed displeasure over this defence and mentioned, in its remarks, that the SC order was 40 pages long and the point of it being unclear was unjustified. The court said that orders arising from the contempt of court proceedings were not being acted upon.“The schools’ legal representatives were issued all the relevant instructions in written form so orders remained clear,” remarked the bench. The judges said that this was a clear petition for contempt of court. The SHC bench further warned private school owners that if they failed to act on the court’s orders, they might be indicted. The SHC ordered the schools’ counsel to submit a written response covering in detail the steps taken for the implementation of court orders before the next hearing. Meanwhile, the parents’ counsel said that the provincial government had submitted inaccurate information in the court. The SHC then directed the petitioner’s counsel to submit a statement highlighting incorrect information and ordered the school owners to inform the steps taken to implement orders issued on September 20, 2017.The court remarked that its order was not nullified by the SC which was what the private schools had been hoping for when they submitted a review petition in the higher court. The SHC bench said that they were still giving school owners a chance. Justice Aqeel Abbasi said that the school owners were not cooperating with the court even though they had been shown leniency several times. He said that the SHC had directed the schools’ managements to submit revised fee challans. “You must now give the documents in black and white so we can also order the parents to submit the fees,” he said. “You have modern systems and top auditors but still you are not able to prepare the documents. Now we do not want just papers but also an affidavit,” Justice Abbasi ordered.He added that until the SC released its orders, the schools must comply with the high court’s order. “Write whatever the amount comes after 5 percent decrease and submit it to us,” he told lawyer. The hearing on the contempt petition was then adjourned till December 20. Published in Daily Times, December 19th 2018.