The Punjab Government has been instructed to establish regulations for the provision of tuition-free education in private schools

The Lahore High Court (LHC) has instructed the provincial government to establish regulations in line with the Punjab Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2014, to ensure compliance by private schools with the law.

Justice Raheel Kamran Sheikh voiced concerns over the absence of regulations even after a decade since the enactment of the law. He noted that the private education sector, which was expected to contribute to ensuring the right to education for underprivileged children, had benefited from governmental inaction.

“In the best-case scenario, it indicates a clear neglect by the government; at worst, it may suggest a case of regulatory capture warranting investigation,” remarked the judge.

These comments were made in a ruling on a petition filed by a private school contesting the denial of a registration certificate in Sahiwal. Justice Raheel Kamran Sheikh emphasized that access to free and compulsory education is a universally recognized right of every child.

The LHC judge underscored that the state is obligated to guarantee free and compulsory education for all children aged between five to 16 years, as per Article 25-A of the Constitution.

Justice Sheikh stressed that despite the enactment of legislation for free education by the Punjab Assembly in 2014, it was perplexing how disadvantaged children could be deprived of their fundamental right to education due to the government’s delay in formulating and notifying regulations to fulfill its obligations.

The Beaconhouse School System, Okara, had petitioned the provincial apex court against the refusal to issue a school registration certificate/E-license for affiliation with the Board of Intermediate & Secondary Education (BISE) Sahiwal. Additionally, it contested the decision to deny permission for its students to participate in the board’s examinations.

The school’s counsel argued that the District Registration Authority (DRA) imposed penalties in the absence of regulations under Section 13(b) of the Punjab Free & Compulsory Education Act, 2014, which delineates the responsibilities of private schools regarding free education.

The CEO of DRA mentioned that despite the government’s failure to formulate regulations for the enforcement of Section 13(b) of the Act, leading schools in the Okara district voluntarily adhered to the requirements.

He stated that if the petitioner provided information in a similar manner, the DRA would promptly extend the school’s registration. Justice Sheikh granted the petition, overturning the decisions of the DRA and the commissioner.

He directed them to ensure the registration of the petitioner’s school if all conditions, except those specified in Section 13(b) of the Act, were met.

Furthermore, the Sahiwal education board was instructed to ensure proper registration of students from the petitioner’s school for secondary examinations.

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