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Thursday, February 15, 2024

SC orders private medical colleges to refund excess fee

News Analysis |

The Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan on Friday ordered all medical colleges to refund excess fee to students within a week. The limit amount was set at Rs. 850,000 and all private medical colleges were ordered to comply with it. A three-member bench of the SC, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar was hearing a suo moto regarding exorbitant fee taken by some medical colleges at its Lahore Registry.

The apex court directed the medical colleges to use their official bank accounts for the transfer of funds. “The issue is related to the future of our next generation,” said the CJP. He warned the medical colleges that the fee should not be as high as to rob the poor students. The CJP remarked that his recent visit to Pak Red Crescent proved to be very useful as he got the chance to observe all irregularities himself.

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He lamented that private medical colleges not only lacked in facilities but also lacked in faculty. CJP Nisar further said that he had been informed of medical colleges taking bribes of up to 2 million rupees for admissions. He deplored that medical had become a business rather than a lifesaving profession and some doctors did not know even how to check a patient’s blood pressure.

The bench adjourned the hearing and asked the amicus curiae Advocate, Ayesha Hamid and any chartered accountancy firm to conduct an audit of all medical colleges to determine their free structure and expenditure. The CJP remarked that the fee structure should be uniform in all private medical colleges and clarified that the fee for the audit will be paid by the medical colleges.

During the hearing, the CJP defined the character of ‘Baba Rahmatay’ as a person who resolved people’s problems. He said that he borrowed the term from a famous Urdu writer Ashfaq Ahmad’s work. The CJP further claimed, “The judiciary is your baba. Do not doubt its integrity.” He vowed to work in the service of people irrespective of what people say.

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Article 184(3) of the Constitution allows the SC to take suo moto notices of any violations of basic human rights. The article allows the judiciary to intervene in the matters of the executive, it was added as a way to keep a check on the balance of power between the trichotomy: executive, legislative and judiciary, but when the judiciary takes too many notices, it is considered as a breach of institutional boundaries, also known as judicial activism.

There is a spat going on between the judiciary and the executive as the Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi accused the judiciary of interfering in his domain on multiple occasions, even in the parliament. The legislative also accused judiciary of overstepping its boundaries when the SC disqualified Nawaz Sharif again as the party head of PML-N. The comments by the CJP to declare SC the ‘Baba Rahmatay’ of the people of Pakistan might be an attempt to gain the public’s support.

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The issue of private medical colleges has been a hot one in media and political circles. The Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC), the University of Health Sciences (UHS) and the Higher Education Commission (HEC) had disputes over granting of licenses to private medical colleges despite their lack of facilities. The fee of private medical colleges has also been a controversial issue since many colleges charged more than the amount set by the PMDC.

The socio-economic dynamics of the Pakistani society impel a great number of parents to send their children to medical colleges because of the prestige attached to the medical profession. Some are even willing to pay a huge amount of bribe to medical colleges to admit their children. The order of the SC were welcomed by civil society activists and parents alike but even though the technical problems can be fixed, the activists urge the government to take steps to raise awareness regarding the importance of every profession and take away the prestige factor of some professions.