ISLAMABAD: Revenue Division has reportedly been grilled by the caretaker federal cabinet for not honouring recommendations of Prime Minister Office (PMO) on the proposed panel for appointment as Members of Adjudicating Authority under Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act, 2017, sources close to Chairman FBR told Business Recorder.

On January 10, 2024, Revenue Division briefed the Cabinet that the Benami Transaction (Prohibition) Act, 2017 was passed and enacted to prohibit holding and transferring properties held as ‘Benami’ and to provide for a mechanism and procedure for the confiscation of such properties, as well as, for matters connected thereto.

It was noted that under subsection (2) of section 6 of Act, the Adjudicating Authority consisted of a Chairperson and at least two other members, and that at present only the Chairperson was in place, whereas two positions of Member were lying vacant. It was further explained that under subsection (3) of section 6 of the Act ibid, a person shall not be qualified for appointment as Chairperson or a Member of the Adjudicating Authority, unless that person: (i) Is or has been a member of the Inland Revenue Service and has held the post of Chief Commissioner Inland Revenue or equivalent post in the service; or (ii) is or has been a member of any Federal Service and has held the post of Additional Secretary or equivalent post in that service.

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The Revenue Division highlighted that section 9 of the Act specified that the Chairperson and Members of the Adjudicating Authority shall hold office for a term not exceeding three years from the date on which they enter office or until they attain the age of sixty-two years, whichever is earlier, and shall nor be eligible for reappointment.

It was further explicated that rule 5 of the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Rules 2019 framed under the Benami Transaction (Prohibition) Act, 2017 provided that “for the purpose of sub-section (4) of section 6, the Secretary Revenue Division shall forward to the Federal Government a panel of suitable officers who are qualified as per criteria provided for in sub-section (3) of section 6 and the federal government shall appoint from amongst the panel a Chairperson and as many members as it deems fit”.

The Revenue Division stated that accordingly a summary for the Cabinet was moved on September7, 2023 for seeking approval for appointment of two members of Benami Adjudicating Authority against the two vacant posts as required under section 6 of the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act, 2017.

In response thereto, the Cabinet Division had conveyed the direction of the Prime Minister’s Office “fresh panel to be submitted by the Revenue Division”.

In compliance with these directions, the Revenue Division submitted the following two panels of officers, in order of preference, along with the justification for the placement of each officer in the panel, for consideration of the Cabinet for appointment of two members, Adjudicating Authority (one from each panel) in terms of section 6 of the Act read with rule 5 of the Benami Transactions (Prohibition ) Rules, 2019 : Panel -1 (i) Bakhtiar Muhammad -IRS/ BS-21; (ii) Muhammad Azam Sheikh- IRS/ BS-21; (iii) Qasim Raza Khan- IRS/BS-21; Panel -II; (i) Syed Ghulam Abbas Kazami- IRS/ BS-21); (ii) Dr Ahmad Shahab (retd. IRS/ BS-21 and; (iii) Rana Hasan Akhtar (retd. Postal Group/ BS-22).

Accordingly, the Revenue Division solicited approval of the federal government for appointment of one officer from each of the two panels as Member, Benami Adjudicating Authority.

During the ensuing discussion, it was observed that the Revenue Division had not complied with the directions of the Prime Minister’s Office to submit a fresh panel of officers against the positions under consideration, and that five of the six officers being proposed were those who had also been proposed in the earlier panels rejected by the Prime Minister’s Office.

It was further observed that nominations should be made from other services also, as provided for in the Act in consultation with the Establishment Division. Moreover, the Cabinet was of the view that a panel of officers must also be submitted for the post of Chairman Benami Adjudicating Authority, since the incumbent was on the verge of retirement.

After detailed discussion on the summary submitted by the Revenue Division, the Cabinet directed the Revenue Division to submit fresh panels of officers, at least half of whom should be from services other than the Inland Revenue Service, for the appointment of the Chairperson and Members of the Adjudicating Authority for consideration of the Cabinet after due consultation with the Establishment Division and with prior approval of the caretaker PM.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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