The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Tuesday observed that tour operators who had paid as little as Rs100 in tax had been issued clearance certificates to be allocated a Hajj quota.
Hearing several contempt of court petitions against the Ministry of Religious Affairs on the issuance of Hajj quotas, Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial said, “It appears that the ministry and the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) have stayed aloof of the real problems in the allocation of Hajj quotas.”
An FBR official submitted a report stating 62 more private tour operators that had been found tax defaulters.
He said the bureau was scrutinising 105 others.
He said the defaulting tour operators had been allocated a quota of more than 3,700 pilgrims.
The CJ directed the ministry to allocate a quota of 5,000 pilgrims amongst eligible tour operators, who have not received any as far.
The judge adjourned the hearing on the contempt petitions till August 6 and directed the ministry and the FBR to provide a progress report.
The CJ also directed the ministry to formulate a policy that would ensure that quotas were allocated on merit and discourage the creation of cartels.
Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial issued a notice to the ministry for August 2 on another petition challenging the allocation of quotas amongst sister-concerns and family companies.
The petitioners said that some of these companies were registered in the names of family members and associates of the beneficiaries.
Some newly registered tour operators had filed contempt of court petitions through Advocate Muhammad Azhar Siddique and complained of discrimination in awarding Hajj quotas.
They had submitted that the court, in an earlier order, had directed the ministry to also allocate Hajj quotas among the new tour operators.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2012.