Monday May 20, 2024

High court restrains CBC from taking coercive action against DHA residents over property tax

By Jamal Khurshid
June 05, 2023

The Sindh High Court (SHC) has restrained the Cantonment Board Clifton (CBC) from taking any coercive action against residents of Defence Housing Authority (DHA) for recovering of property tax on the pre-determine annual rental value for its retrospective effect. The high court, however, also ordered that 25 per cent of the reassessment shall be secured for the current year 2023-24. The SHC observed that DHA and CBC shall either issue fresh challan of only 25 per cent of the tax for the current year or the same shall be secured by the petitioners by way of bank guarantees or pay order to the Nazir of the court.

The interim order came recently on a petition filed by residents of DHA challenging imposition of enhanced property and conservancy tax on DHA and its affiliated areas, including Clifton Block 8 and 9. The petitioners’ counsel, Khawaja Shamsul Islam, submitted that the CBC lacked competence in levying the property tax in terms of the entry 37 read with 50 of the fourth schedule to the constitution. He submitted that it was provincial domain to levy and recover property taxes. The counsel submitted that a commanding order for reassessment and that to with retrospective effect was passed by the cantonment authorities in violation of the fundamental rights of the citizens. He said that all kinds of tax could only be levied by Parliament under the Article 77 of the constitution but such authority was violated by the military land and cantonment department.

He said a court had already issued an interim relief order with respect of reassessment of property tax in cantonment areas. A division bench of the SHC headed by Justice Mohammad Shafi Siddiqui after a preliminary hearing of the petition issued notices to the attorney general, CBC and others, calling their comments. In the meantime, the bench restrained the CBC and other respondents from taking any coercive action against residents of DHA.

Teachers’ salaries

The SHC recently directed the education department to withhold salaries of government teachers who had not been marking their digital attendance. The direction came during hearing of petitions seeking implementation of the educations laws in the province. The high court directed the information technology secretary to upgrade the attendance system through a digital application and ordered that the salaries of those teachers who failed to mark their attendance be stopped. The education secretary told the SHC that many schoolteachers did not mark attendance through the digital application making excuse of not having smart phones. The high court directed the education and IT secretaries to submit a compliance report and ensure attendance of schoolteachers through the digital application.