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Saturday June 15, 2024

IHC CJ says court did not stop govt from blocking non-filers’ SIMs

the attorney general tells court that poor people will not be sent a notice regarding SIM closure

By Awais Yousafzai
May 17, 2024
SIMs can be seen in this representational image. —Pixabay/ File
SIMs can be seen in this representational image. —Pixabay/ File

ISLAMABAD: Hearing the government’s miscellaneous petition, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday said its injunction in the case pertaining to the blocking of SIMs was meant to prevent action against the private telecom companies and it was not against blocking of SIMs.

As per Geo News, the IHC on May 14 stopped the government from blocking SIMs of those who did not pay their taxes till May 27. This was ordered by IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq while hearing the plea filed by a mobile phone company against the decision to block SIMs of non-filers.

The plea was filed days after the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and telecom operators had agreed on blocking non-filers’ SIMs to overcome the issue of tax evasion so that revenue generation could be enhanced.

After lengthy deliberations among the stakeholders, the FBR announced earlier this month 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 had said that the first batch comprising 5,000 non-filers had been communicated to the telecom operators and that more batches would be sent to telcos on a daily basis.

Earlier, it was decided to block 500,000 SIMs of individuals who did not appear on the active taxpayer list but were liable to file the Income Tax Return for Tax Year 2023.

Today’s hearing

At the onset of the hearing of a miscellaneous plea, the attorney general said he had come to get the stay order on blocking of mobile phone SIMs dismissed.

To which, the chief justice remarked that the last order was not what it was reported in the media. He said the order didn’t stay the blockage of SIMs instead he stopped taking action against the private companies.

The chief justice inquired if a labourer or poor person would also be included in the tax net. To this query, the attorney general said poor people would not be sent a notice regarding SIM closure.

The CJ said it was feared that the FBR would include everyone in its net, so there should be some rules and regulations as not everyone could visit the FBR and give clarification about their status.

The attorney general apprised the bench that the non-filers would be issued notices from November 2023 and those who have paid their taxes should not be worried.

The FBR authorities would restore SIMs upon satisfaction, he maintained.

On the request of the attorney general, the IHC issued notice on the government’s miscellaneous petition seeking a reply on May 22.