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KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) has set aside notices of Sui Southern Gas Company Limited (SSGCL) to CNG stations to pay unadjudicated default surcharges and ordered the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to conduct an inquiry into this prima facie abdication/dereliction of duty having a direct impact upon public revenue and initiate appropriate proceedings against those considered to be liable.

A division bench of the SHC, comprising Justice Muhammad Junaid Ghaffar and Justice Agha Faisal, issued these orders in multiple petitions by the Sindh Petroleum and CNG Dealers Association and others.

The written order of the court, released on Saturday, stated that the SSGC issued notices to the petitioners requiring them to pay unadjudicated default surcharge within seven days, failing which their gas supply was liable to be disconnected.

Subsequent thereto special bills were also sent to the petitioners seeking recovery of the aforementioned amounts.

The notices sent to the petitioners were almost identical, the difference being the amounts sought to be recovered respectively, the order stated. The court observed that in the present scenario, no adjudication process was even initiated against any person whatsoever, and notwithstanding the same a coercive recovery drive was delegated to a third party, itself prima facie within the ambit of the default alleged.

In addition hereto, the uncontroverted documentation suggests that an agreement was reached between the FBR and the CNG Dealers’ Association for payment of the amount in question in installments.

If that be so, then initiation of proceedings for recovery of default surcharge via a third party (SSGC) is all the more unjustifiable.

And lastly, no exercise was ever carried out to determine the actual persons/defaulters who had failed to deposit the principal amount of sales tax in court, the order stated.

The court ordered Secretary Revenue Division/Chairman FBR, Member Inland Revenue (Operations) and Member Legal FBR to conduct an inquiry into this prima facie abdication/dereliction of duty, having a direct impact upon public revenue and initiate appropriate proceedings against those considered to be liable. The court directed that a report should be submitted through the office of the attorney-general before this court within four weeks from the date of judgment.

The order set aside the bills issued by the SSGC to the petitioners and declared that the Inland Revenue Department shall remain at liberty to initiate appropriate proceedings if it is in possession of cogent material against persons responsible under the law in force at the relevant time for collection/payment of the relevant public revenues subject to the law.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021


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