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ISLAMABAD: The Lahore High Court (LHC) has directed the Ministry of Law and Justice to provide crucial information regarding eligibility of Chairman, Appellate Tribunal Inland Revenue (ATIR) on a petition challenging alleged involvement of Law Ministry to hide basic information regarding the appointment of a person as Chairperson, ATIR in BS-22.

It is learnt that LHC issued directions on a petition filed by Lahore-based Advocate Waheed Shahzad Butt, wherein the petitioner questions the Law Ministry's letter to reject the request to seek some crucial information under Article 19-A of the Constitution of Pakistan about the appointment of a Judicial Member in BS-22 as Chairman ATIR. Petitioner has also argued to recover the salary and benefits from the Chairman ATIR in the light of binding verdict issued by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 2019 SCMR 1.

Petitioner stated that the matter of appointment of a person in BS-22 as a Chairperson is quite sensitive in nature where billions of rupees of National Exchequer in the shape of public money (taxes) are on stake because under the law, ATIR is a final fact-finding authority under the hierarchy of appeals provided under fiscal statutes.

Petitioner's questions were as simple as straight which shouldn't have been refused, provided there was no violation of the merit in the appointment of Chairman ATIR. Whether investigation/inquiry/ complaint against Chairman was disposed of before his appointment? The follow-up query sought the list of cases handled by him to prove 10 years Active Practice as an advocate of a High Court.

United States Supreme Court stated the basic purpose of the Freedom of Information Act to "...ensure an informed citizenry, vital to the functioning of a democratic society, needed to check against corruption and to hold the governors accountable to the governed". Supreme Court of Canada described the objectives of the Access to Information Act as "The overarching purpose of access to information legislation is to facilitate democracy by helping to ensure that citizens have the information required to participate meaningfully in the democratic process and that politicians and bureaucrats remain accountable to the citizenry". The very purpose for which the Article 19A was inducted in the Constitution has been defeated by the Law Ministry badly and that too without application of judicious mind to show transparency, fair play and clean Government: Petitioner added.

Petitioner submits that petitioner applied for information regarding public functionary and under Article 19-A of the Constitution, he is entitled to said information to ensure transparency in appointments. He also placed reliance on the law laid down by this court in 2016 PLD 872 (Waheed Shahzad Butt Vs President of Pakistan). LHC directed the Law Ministry to provide the information while the case has been fixed for hearing for October 22, 2020.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020