ISLAMABAD - Justice Qazi Faez Isa on Wednesday raised question on a suo moto regarding unreasonable deduction in the name of different taxes while crediting calling cards, exercised by former Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar.

During the proceedings, Justice Isa while heading a two-judge bench questioned whether the matter of unreasonable deduction by mobile network companies in the name of different taxes falls under Article 184(3), the suo moto jurisdiction.

He observed that the taxes are collected under relevant laws and questioned how the top court suspended the collection of a specific tax without suspending the laws.

Justice Isa further questioned whether the top court is empowered to direct the government in tax matters.

On May 3 last year, former Chief Justice Nisar took suo moto notice on unreasonable deduction on the name of different taxes while crediting calling cards and issued notices to notice the Attorney General for Pakistan, FBR and all the cellular companies including Mobilink, Jazz, Ufone, Zong, Telenor.

While taking notice, the former chief justice had termed the deduction as exploitation and had observed that Rs.60 credited on card of Rs. 100 adding it is the matter of public importance.

Interestingly the federal government led by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which was supporter of suo moto in previous government, now came forward in opposition of the top court’s interference through suo moto jurisdiction.

The federal government through Attorney General for Pakistan opposed the interference of top court through exercise of Article 184(3) in policy matters and contended before the two-judge bench that the instant matter does not fall under Article 184(3) and the jurisdiction was exceedingly exercised.

He contended that the tax is a policy matter and not the matter of fundamental rights. He also requested the bench to review top court’s June 11, 2018 interim order, wherein deduction of money by mobile network companies on the name of different taxes was suspended.

He revealed before the bench that the federal government suffered a loss of more than Rs.50 billion due to the top court’s said orders. Punjab’s Additional Advocate General Qasim Chohan informed the bench that province’s exchequer also suffered a loss between Rs.80 billion to Rs.100 billion due to the said order.

Justice Isa observed that the claimed amount is hefty. He, however, questioned how a similar tax could be imposed on a billionaire and a labourer.

During the proceedings, another member of the bench Justice Ijazul Ahsan, who had been member of the earlier bench headed by former Chief Justice Nisar, questioned how the charges could be deducted in advance from a person who does not fall in tax net.

During the proceedings, Justice Isa also observed that Parliament’s job is not to only collect the tax but also responsible to determine who is eligible to pay the tax and who is not. 

Later, Justice Isa referred the matter to chief justice for constitution of three-judge bench on the grounds that an earlier order for suspension of taxes was given by a three-judge bench. 

The top court, however, directed the federal and provincial governments to submit a written reply on the question as to whether deduction of a tax can be suspended in exercise of suo moto jurisdiction.

The governments are also directed to submit as to whether the tax can be imposed on a person who does not fall in the tax net and whether mobile companies can impose excise duty on mobile service.