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Prime Minister Imran Khan has directed the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to immediately finalise the list of cases where stay orders have been granted by the high courts and the Supreme Court for early disposal of tax-related cases involving huge amounts of revenue.

According to the FBR's instructions issued to the field formations here on Friday, reference to the meeting of economic team with the prime minister, the FBR wants to convey that the Prime Minister's Office desired case-wise update with reference to the prime minister's directive for early disposal of cases stuck in litigation.

The board vide letter requisitioned the list of cases stuck due to stay orders granted by Supreme Court and high courts. In response to the said letter, the field formations provided lists of cases through email. All the responses were compiled and submitted to the Prime Minister's Office.

Now the Prime Minister's Office desired current status of cases enumerated in that list. All the chief commissioners and the directors general are requested to provide the updated case-wise status of all those cases, which were submitted by field formations in response to the aforementioned board's letter dated 22nd August 2019, the FBR letter added.

The PM's Office requires a reply within three days. Therefore, the chief commissioners must ensure that the response in the following format may reach the board: title of the case; case no; current status; amount in millions; and date of stay granted.

The matter may be treated as most urgent and top priority, the FBR's directive added. The FBR is facing challenges in this respect including high volume of litigation, sub-optimal quality of departmental orders, weak representation in courts and lack of coordination among field formations and lawyers. A huge amount is stuck in tax-related litigations between the FBR and courts/appellate forums.

Sources told Business Recorder that a substantial amount of revenue has been stuck in litigations between FBR and courts including Supreme Court of Pakistan, High Courts, Appellate Tribunal Inland Revenue, Customs Tribunals and Commissioners Inland Revenue Appeals. The data revealed that the highest amount of tax is stuck at the level of Appellate Tribunal Inland Revenue.

When contacted tax lawyer Waheed Shahzad Butt told Business Recorder that to avoid futile litigation and wastage of public resources in the shape of taxpayer's money, it is the need of the hour to avoid unnecessary futile litigation.

It is well known that the government is the largest litigant in courts being a "Compulsive Litigant" because the expense is on the government. According to him, courts across the country often witness appeals on frivolous grounds, resulting in wastage of public money and consuming valuable time of the courts.

This happens because public functionaries involved in frivolous appeals/litigation are not personally responsible and do not pay from their own pockets.

An appeal/proceeding that lacks merit is not always or often frivolous but prima facie initiating baseless, insupportable inquiries/proceedings designed only to compete the budgetary targets must be stopped to waste the precious resources of the national exchequer in futile litigation.

Waheed further said that in a landmark order passed by the Supreme Court in 2018 PTD 1204 has categorically held that, "Appeals should not be filed as a matter of routine or because a decision has been rendered against the (Government) department - Decisions should be taken on a reasonable basis and it was not advisable for government departments to waste public time and money by filing appeals routinely."

The tax lawyer said it was the duty of the FBR and its field formations to dispense justice and functionaries representing the FBR were supposed to uphold the dignity of the law.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020