Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday set aside the single bench order which had declared void the amnesty scheme on non-customs duty paid vehicles.
It was on June 19 that the single bench court comprising Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui had declared illegal an amnesty scheme under which thousands of motor vehicles were released without having to pay customs duty. The court had also ordered confiscation of 50,000 vehicles on which duty had not been paid.
On Nov 11, IHC two-judge bench comprising Justice Riaz Ahmed Khan and Justice Noorul Haq N Qureshi, accepting the appeal filed by Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), has suspended the order passed by Justice Siddiqui.
Challenging the single bench order, the FBR counsel Athar Minallah argued that the petitioner who had challenged the scheme was not the aggrieved party.
He maintained that the earlier order should be suspended as the petitioner did not have an import/export business of vehicles and he was not even directly affected through this scheme.
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government had on March 3 approved the amnesty scheme allowing owners to legalise smuggled cars after payment of concessional duty and taxes.
Later, the FBR had issued a Statutory Regulatory Order (SRO) introducing the amnesty scheme. However, Justice Siddiqui had declared it illegal and observed that the scheme was launched to favour a ‘certain group’ in the country.
Minallah argued that the SRO was issued according to law, that this was not the first scheme of this nature, and that the previous government had introduced three such schemes earlier.
“Through this decision thousands of people, who paid duties of their vehicles, have been affected as they are still deprived of the benefits of the scheme,” he said.
He said 47,000 vehicles were older than ten years and people had paid duties so there was no intention of government to favour a ‘specific group’ through this scheme.
“The scheme was launched to legalise the illegal vehicles in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to raise additional revenue,” he added.
It is noted that Defence of Human Rights of Public Trust (DHRPT) President Khawaja Saad Saleem had filed a petition, terming the governmental decision ‘illegal’ and ‘discriminatory’. Advocate Syed Javed Akbar, the petitioner’s counsel, had maintained that FBR had issued an SRO in violation of Import Order Policy.
Accepting the appeal, the bench suspended the single bench order and adjourned the matter till the next date which will be fixed by the registrar later.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 12th, 2013.
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