ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday regretted again about the state’s failure to carry out its constitutional obligation of providing free and quality education to children in the country.

While taking up a set of cases relating to education institutions and increase of fees by private educational institutions, a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa observed that it was the duty of the state to provide free education to all, but when it fails a vacuum is filled by others to run the education sector.

At the last hearing on Tuesday, the chief justice had asked the federal and provincial governments to come up with justification as to how they are fulfilling their obligation under Article 25-A of the Constitution.

Article 25-A deals with the right to education and obligates the state to provide free and compulsory education to all children from age five to 16 years in such a manner as may be determined by the law.

Senior counsel Faisal Siddiqui while representing parents argued that different judgments of courts have always laid emphasis on the fundamental right of the people to get education.

He contended that private schools have no right to increase fee in the name of development or development charges.

During the hearing, Justice Faisal Arab observed that private educational institutions always seek prior permission about fee structure, adding that the fee structure can be revised every three years.

Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan, however, observed that the fee increase by any school can only be allowed after seeking prior approval of the authority concerned, highlighting that there is no bar on increasing other charges, except tuition fee.

The chief justice regretted that the people opt for private institutions because of the state’s failure to provide quality education.

He observed that the regulatory authority cannot regulate private educational institutions, adding that the courts cannot order one airline to receive equivalent amount of fare from a successful airliner.

Earlier, the Supreme Court had on Dec 13 last year ordered slashing of fees by private schools in excess of Rs5,000 by 20 per cent.

The court had also emphasised the need for developing a mechanism to counter resistance on the part of private schools to undermine regulatory steps explaining that such resistance shown by private schools include reduction of facilities in schools, increase in number of students in classes, reduction of teaching staff, reduction in their salaries and other related matters.

The court put off the hearing for Tuesday.

Published in Dawn, April 16th, 2019

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