The Supreme Court while hearing the case of unreasonable charges deducted from cellular network subscribers on Monday observed that the State is supposed to be fair and to work for the people rather to rob the citizens.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan, member of the three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, observed this when Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Anwar Mansoor Khan contended that under the law, the cellular network subscribers who do not fall within the definition of taxpayer can get the certificate from Income Tax Commissioner for exemption.

Chief Justice Khosa while pointing out the law observed that may be the legislature taken a chance to collect tax if a person is not bothered.

He asked the AGP even if a person gets certificate of exemption where it will have to be submitted when the charges are deducted automatically after crediting a card.

Justice Ahsan questioned whether a vendor will bother to go to commissioner for such certificate. “Why a poor vendor sitting in Dera Ghazi Khan will go for getting a certificate of exemption,” observed Justice Ahsan.

He further remarked that fuel adjustment surcharge is imposed in every budget but the same surcharge gets strike down after filing of writ petitions so those file petitions in courts get relief while the other millions of people pay the surcharge.

“What is being said that the law intentionally misapplied in order to unduly enrich the state,” observed Justice Ahsan adding that state cannot unduly enrich itself.

“It seems the legislature pressing that every citizen is taxpayer and it is for the citizen to show he does not fall within the definition of taxpayer,” observed Chief Justice Khosa.

Justice Ahsan observed that state is supposed to work for the citizens and not to rob them but state is doing what it is not supposed to do.

Chief Justice Khosa said the burden of a person should lessen if not removed. He further observed that solution does not lie in interpreting the law and the solution is somewhere else.

During the hearing, the AGP also contended that the matter is beyond the scope of Article 184 (3).

The bench directed the AGP to seek instructions from the federal government and submit as to whether there can be any mechanism to settle the issue because Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has data of taxpayers while Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) made it mandatory for a subscriber to produce identity card while subscribing to a network.

Barrister Syed Ali Zafar, appearing on behalf of Punjab Revenue Authority (PRA) submitted that the sales tax on the services of telecommunication industry was being collected under a Sales Tax on Services Act, 2012 which was within the legislative competence of the Provincial Assembly under the Constitution.

He submitted that the top court, exercising suo motu jurisdiction under Article 184(3) of the Constitution, had stayed the levy of the tax without affording any opportunity of hearing to PRA and without assigning any reason.

He submitted that the jurisdiction under Article 184(3) could only be invoked if the matter is enforcement of fundamental rights but no such fundamental rights have been infringed in this case and, hence, Article 184(3) was not applicable.