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February 20, 2021

SHC irked by absence of FBR’s counsels in tax-related matters

National

February 20, 2021

KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) has expressed dismay at continuous absence of the Federal Board of Revenue’s counsel and representatives in several tax-related matters before courts where stay orders were operating against the FBR for more than six months.

During hearing identical petitions with regard to amendments in respect of the income tax ordinance and unilateral withdrawal of incentives in tax, a division bench of the high court, headed by Justice Mohammad Junaid Ghaffar, took a serious exception to the FBR’s counsels not appearing in the petitions pending since 2019.

The bench observed that although arguments were made by the petitioners’ counsel on November 19, 2020, the matter was pending since then and no one on behalf of the FBR appeared to proceed the cases.

The SHC observed that one deputy commissioner inland revenue had appeared before the court and, when confronted, he was not in a position to proceed or assist the court in any manner and requested further time. The court expressed dismay at the conduct of the department.

The high court observed that the bench had been constituted to decide tax matters, wherein stay orders were operating for more than six months but despite repeated notices, in majority of cases it was the FBR that was causing delay and was an impediment to early disposal of such cases.

The bench recalled that in an earlier Customs reference, the non-representation and non-assistance by the FBR counsel had been pointed out and it was observed that in a number of cases pertaining to the Customs department, the collector of customs (preventive) and Port

Qasim representatives and counsels despite being put on notices had invariably chosen not to appear and defend the matters.The SHC observed that this was a sad state of affairs insofar the assistance from the FBR was concerned as there were independent legal wings and departments within the Board of Revenue but still their conduct before the court was pathetic.

The high court observed that no positive effort was forthcoming on the part of the FBR’s departments and directed the office to send a copy of the order to the FBR chairman as well as the member inland revenue (operations) and member (legal), FBR, for information about such state of affairs.

The SHC remarked that there were numerous matters of the similar nature that could be heard and decided expeditiously; therefore, the court was compelled to order the office to note that these matters may not be treated as partly heard and be fixed accordingly on the next date. The court also ordered that interim orders, if any, to continue till the next date of hearing.