Contempt application filed against mayor over MUCT collection through KE bills

By Jamal Khurshid
June 16, 2024
Karachi Mayor Barrister Murtaza Wahab addresses a press conference at Sindh Assembly building in Karachi, on May 29, 2023. — PPI

The Jamaat-e-Islami’s (JI) parliamentary leader in the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) City Council, Advocate Saifuddin, has filed a contempt of court application against Karachi Mayor Murtaza Wahab for what he termed violation of the court order pertaining to the collection of municipal utility tax through the K-Electric (KE) bills.

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The Sindh High Court (SHC) had earlier directed the KMC to conclude the exercise with regard to review of its agreement for collection of municipal utility tax through the KE bills and constitution of a committee to deliberate the issue and present the same before the City Council within three months.

Filing the contempt of court application, the JI leader submitted that the mayor had assured the high court to constitute a committee on the matter of the municipal utility charges and taxes (MUCT) before the matter was tabled in the council.

He submitted that the mayor also undertook before the court that the KE would not charge anything other than service charges and that the consumers of up to 300 units will not be charged with any tax.

He submitted that the mayor had issued a notification for the constitution of a committee on the issue and eight other members were part of the said committee.

He submitted that the first meeting of the committee was called on June 3 but the matter could not be taken up because of the controversy surrounding the name of the parliamentary leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

The JI leader informed the high court that at that point, the parliamentary leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in the City Council announced that the meeting would be called the following day after resolution of the controversy. Saifuddin added that however, the ruling party convened another meeting on the same day, excluding the opposition parties, even without informing them.

The applicant submitted that the matter was not part of the agenda of the day it was tabled in the council.

The JI leader stated that the PPP included the matter in the supplementary agenda with mala fide intentions a few minutes before the commencement of the session.

He submitted that the mayor declared the resolution as passed without a proper count of votes in favour of or against the resolution.

The applicant submitted that no agreement with the KE was presented before the council with regard to the MUCT. He submitted that the act of the alleged contemnor was against the undertaking given before the high court which was mentioned in the May 29 order.

The JI leader maintained that the mayor had committed contempt of the court order.

The direction had come on petitions pertaining to the collection of MUCT from the citizens through the KE bills.

The petitioners, Syed Najeebuddin Ahmed, then Karachi Jamaat-e-Islami Emir Hafiz Naeemur Rehman and others, had challenged the collection of fire and conservancy charges and other utility charges of the KMC through the power bills. The petitioners had questioned the viability of collection of utility taxes through the electricity bills and requested the high court to declare the impugned action of the KMC as unlawful.

It is pertinent to mention that the high court had observed that the mayor had submitted a statement indicating an intention to establish a committee inclusive of representatives from all political parties to consider the matter.

The SHC had directed the KMC to complete the entire exercise within three months and proceed with its actions in compliance with applicable law.

The high court had observed that any resolutions or notifications issued by the KMC shall be considered provisional and subject to the final determination of the petition in which vires of the rules had been challenged.

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