close
Thursday June 13, 2024

IHC stays blocking of non-filers' SIMs

IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq issues stay order till May 27 on govt's decision

By Awais Yousafzai
May 14, 2024
A representational image showing SIM cards being reflected on a monitor showing binary digits in this photo illustration. — Reuters/File
A representational image showing SIM cards being reflected on a monitor showing binary digits in this photo illustration. — Reuters/File

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday ordered the federal government to refrain from blocking SIMs of non-filers.

The order was issued during a hearing of a petition filed by a mobile phone company against the government's move to block SIMs of those who have not paid their taxes. 

During the hearing, IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq issued a stay order till May 27 on the government's decision. 

The development came days after the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and telecom operators agreed on blocking of SIMs of non-filers as part of the government's bid to curb tax evasion to improve revenue generation amid dire economic indicators.

The FBR had announced that telecom companies have agreed to commence the manual blocking process of SIMs in small batches until their systems are fully equipped to automate it.

The tax collection body said that the first batch comprising 5,000 non-filers has been communicated to the telecom operators and that more batches would be sent to telecom operators on a daily basis.

Meanwhile, the operators had also commenced sending messages to non-filers regarding the blocking of their SIMs for intimation purposes.

FBR and telecom operators had been holding meetings over the resulting deadlock after the latter refused to implement the former's decision to block 500,000 SIMs of individuals who do not appear on the active taxpayer list but are liable to file the Income Tax Return for Tax Year 2023.

During the hearing, petitioner's counsel Salman Akram Raja said that the amendment in the law is at odds with Article 18 of Constitution which guarantees freedom to do business.

Raja said that there cannot be any legislation contrary to the fundamental rights given in the Constitution.

He told the court that the government cannot take the authority of blocking the mobile phone SIMs of the people by making amendments to the law.

"Blocking more than 500,000 SIMs will result in a loss of Rs1 billion annually," the counsel said.