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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday suspended Chief Commissioner-Inland Revenue (IR), Large Taxpayers Office Islamabad for deliberately delaying tax cases in High Court. According to a notification issued by the FBR on Tuesday, in exercise of powers conferred under Rule 5(1) of Civil Servants (Efficiency & Discipline) Rules, 2020, the Competent Authority has placed Yousif Hyder Shaikh (IRS/BS-21) presently posted as Chief Commissioner-IR, Large Taxpayers Office, Islamabad under suspension, with immediate effect, for a period of 120 days.

Earlier, the Chief Commissioner-Inland Revenue (IR), Large Taxpayers Office, Islamabad was made Director General (Special Initiatives) stationed at Karachi on April 22.

The Prime Minister took serious notice of the “wilful” delay in pending cases at higher courts and directed FBR for suspension of Chief Commissioner Large Taxpayers Office, Islamabad and other relevant officials.

FBR asks CCIRs to comply with court’s orders

Meanwhile, a statement of the PM Office Media Wing said that while issuing a directive for the suspension of all the relevant officials, the prime minister also asked for initiating an inquiry against them. The Prime Minister had directed for immediate reforms in the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and decided to oversee the process himself.

As per details, billions of rupees’ cases related to government revenues have been pending for adjudication in the Appellate Tribunals and High Courts.

The Prime Minister had requested the Chief Justice of Pakistan for the early disposal of such cases.

Recently, the prime minister took a notice of one of these pending cases in which an FBR counsel had sought adjournment and directed the relevant authorities to inquire into the matter.

The prime minister observed that the national exchequer had been suffering due to the pendency of such tax related cases involving worth billions of rupees.

Shehbaz Sharif made it clear that he would not tolerate any kind of lethargy in pursuance of such legal matters, and under his pledge with the nation, would continue monitoring the tax reforms.

The statement quoted Prime Minister as saying that “for enhancing the revenues and saving every penny of the country and nation, they would have to strive day and night”, it added.

Details of the case revealed that LTO Islamabad had requested for early fixation of a case of a tobacco company at the Islamabad High Court (IHC). On the date of hearing, the legal counsel of the tax department sought adjournment of the case, which was on the priority list. IHC issued an order for re-listing of the case on May 17, 2024.

Officials informed that the departmental representatives; i.e., legal advisors are not under administrative control of the FBR or any of its field formations. They are independent lawyers and take fee for each case. The LTU Islamabad has not given any instructions for seeking adjournment. It was the sole decision of the legal advisor to seek adjournment of the case or not.

Moreover, tax officials are not allowed to plead their cases in courts.

The question arises whether tax official or legal adviser is reasonable for seeking adjournment? Whether the department has given any written instructions to sought adjournment? Whether the decision of suspension was hasty and harsh without realizing that who was actually responsible for taking adjournment, they added.

A new Tax Laws (First) Amendment Bill 2024 is being finalised to abolish the post of Commissioner Inland Revenue (Appeals) to early dispose of tax related pending cases.

It is learnt that the drafting of the Bill is underway with the objective to reduce litigations of Rs 2.3 trillion in courts

The order of the IHC order (dated April 17), in the matter of tobacco company, stated that the counsel for the petitioner is ready to make his submissions. The Court is ready to hear the submissions. The Respondents; i.e., departments are not ready, despite their complaint to the Attorney General’s office that the Government’s revenue is stuck due to pending litigation and the Attorney General writing to the Chief Justice to expedite the pending tax litigation.

Let it be noted for the record that this petition was admitted on Feb 3, 2023 but over a year later learned counsel stated that FBR has instructed him only recently and he needs time to prepare his brief. The case has been re-listed for May 17, 2023, IHC order added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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M. Zahid Iftikhar Apr 24, 2024 10:04am
PM did the right thing. Despite directives, why were the legal representatives (lawyers) not instructed to clear the backlog of urgent cases? Is 2.3 Trillion peanuts for all concerned?
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