Private schools operating in Punjab have decided to file a review petition against the Supreme Court’s (SC) October 24, 2017 judgement in which it ordered that all private schools/colleges situated in cantonment areas be shut down.

The SC had passed the judgement against the commercial activities of schools and colleges in the cantonment areas of Punjab, saying residential areas could not be used for commercial purposes legally. Acting in accordance with SC orders, various cantonment boards across Punjab recently issued notices to a number of educational institutions to cease their activities and vacate the premises within 15 days. Else, the cantonment authorities concerned would be forced to close down and seal the school premises.

However, the decision hasn’t gone down well with All Pakistan Private School Management Association (APPSMA), with its president Kashif Adeeb Jawdani the body planned to file an appeal in the case.

Jawdani said the SC had issued the verdict in a case that had been awaiting ruling for about 17 years. “It was basically a case of two individuals of Rawalpindi Cantonment Board in which a person approached the court by taking a plea that no one can hold any commercial activity in the cantonment board and therefore the court should pass a decree to stop the commercial activities within the vicinity of the cantonment areas,” Jawdani said. He said the ruling was passed without paying heed to the concerns of the private schools, despite them being essential stakeholders in the case. Jawadani lamented that cantonment boards had been receiving the commercialisation fees from private schools for a long time and “they are now issuing notices following the orders of the apex court”.

There are 45 cantonment areas in Pakistan that have close to 30,000 private schools and colleges in operation. Almost 15,000 of these private schools and colleges are located in cantonment boards in Punjab. These institutes employ over 300,000 teachers and offer educational services to more than 4 million students.

All Pakistan Private School Federation (APPSF) President Kashif Mirza also expressed reservation over the verdict, saying a large number of people will be adversely affected by the verdict. “It would be sheer injustice with the at this juncture keeping in view that their exams are going on,” he said. Mirza said that were planning to file a review petition with the Supreme Court as private schools had been exclusively targeted, while commercial activities of private hospitals, restaurants and beauty salons were not questioned.

Moreover, a joint committee of private school associations has expressed solidarity with private schools in cantonment areas, vowing that all private schools would cease their activities in protest if the schools in cantonment areas were prohibited from continuing with their operations.

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