SC irked over PTI govt's failure to assist in GIDC case

Court irked at presence of junior officials, hearing adjourned till Tuesday


Hasnaat Malik February 17, 2020
The Supreme Court of Pakistan. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday expressed displeasure over the federal government's failure to provide assistance in the Gas Infrastructure Development Cess (GIDC) case involving billions of rupees of the national exchequer.

A three-member special bench headed by Justice Mushir Alam and comprising Justice Faisal Arab and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah questioned the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government for not releasing the amount to initiate gas pipeline projects despite a collection of Rs295 billion in the GIDC fund.

Justice Shah asked if the amount was allocated for the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project as Justice Arab observed that Tehran and Ashgabat had completed the work on the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India project (TAPI) while Pakistan was stalling the project.

The bench was also irked by the absence of top officers as the petroleum and finance ministries sent junior officials who failed to satisfy the court in their responses regarding the federal government's decision to not release funds for the projects.

Noting that the relevant top officials should be present in the court to answer the questions, the bench adjourned the hearing till Tuesday.

GIDC defaulter dues soar to Rs534b

GIDC case

In August last year, President Arif Alvi promulgated the Gas Infrastructure Development Cess (Amendment) Ordinance 2019 for an out-of-court settlement of the Rs420 billion dispute with industries.

The ordinance allowed the general industry, fertiliser sector and CNG sector to pay 50% of their outstanding bills within 90 days in advance and secure 50% discount on future bills provided they withdrew their court cases.

The government said it expected net receipts of Rs150-Rs160 billion under the proposed amnesty provided all the stakeholders availed the offer. However, the government after receiving strong disapproval from various circles withdrew the ordinance within days of its promulgation.

It then approached the apex court through the attorney general requesting for an early hearing of the GIDC case.

Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources informed the apex court in January 2020 that till June 30 2019, a total of Rs752 billion was accrued on account of GIDC.

An amount Rs295 billion was collected and deposited by the gas companies in accordance with the GIDC Act 2015 into the government exchequer leaving an outstanding balance of Rs457 billion.

The petroleum ministry cited the protracted litigation against applicability of GIDC and circular debt as reason for non-recovery of GIDC amount by the gas companies.

Due to various lawsuits filed before the superior courts regarding the imposition of GIDC, a total of Rs420 billion had been pending as on June 30, 2019. The amount held under the circular debt is Rs36 billion.

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