No one to be allowed to burden common man: CJ Iftikhar
20 June, 2013
ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry observed that only parliament could impose taxes as doing so did not come within the ambit of the government. He maintained that the apex court would not allow anyone to create problems for the common man.
The chief justice made these remarks while heading a three-member bench on Wednesday which took up a suo moto case pertaining to the one percent hike in the General Sales Tax (GST).
Attorney general Munir A Malik told the bench that food items and drugs would be exempted from the increased levy.The Supreme Court was informed that GST was not applicable to edible items and medicines.
The court was informed that as per Section 13, read with the sixth schedule under the Sales Tax Act 1990, vegetables, meat, milk, eggs, red chillies, fish, drugs, pulses, fruit, poultry, ginger, turmeric, cereals and products of the milling industry, ice, poultry feed, butter, sugarcane, yogurt, infant milk preparations, salt, potato, onions, bread, naan, chapati, buns and other such items would be exempted from sales tax and that the increase in the rate of sales tax from 16 to 17 percent under the declaration issued under the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act 1931, did not affect any of the items that were exempted under the Sales Tax Act, 1990.
The attorney general told the court that the finance minister had directed the FBR to inform the general public through all appropriate means about the exemption of tax in essential items.
He argued that the government was empowered to impose tax under the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act 1931 to which the Chief Justice Chaudhry categorically said how the government could put burden on the masses by enforcing the law which was legislated by the British rulers.
The court observed that the GST was the tax out of which the government would take direct benefit saying businessmen would have no relief from it.The chief justice inquired from the counsel for the FBR how it was possible to recover tax from unregistered petrol pumps saying as many as 90 percent unregistered petrol pumps were collecting money from consumers but not depositing it in the national kitty.
He further observed that increase in the petroleum prices had badly affected the prices of daily use items.The chief justice further remarked that even the President of Pakistan was not authorised to impose any tax and that the increase in GST was illegal.
Counsel for Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra), Advocate Salman Akram Raja and Attorney General Munir A Malik however contended that the government could increase GST on any product according to the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act, 1931.The chief justice replied that no law could be adopted which was repugnant to fundamental human rights.
CJ remarked, "The country's affairs should be run under law and Constitution. The country cannot afford any wrong decision now. What will be there a need left for the constitution when government enhances GST through a declaration? Judges and Parliament together have to protect the rights of the people. We have to improve our constitution. For how long will we continue to adhere to the laws enacted by the Britons? The people ask from their elected representatives why the government is increasing the sales tax which is not allowed by the Constitution. We cannot allow such kind of steps."
AG said, "This law has been in force since 1931 and under this law government is authorised to levy, increase or decrease any tax. Under this law tax stands imposed forthwith and its implementation is not subject to approval of finance bill."
Justice Iftikhar inquired, "If this law is not in clash with the fundamental rights enshrined in law and Constitution. When assemblies and Constitution are in place, why the need is not being felt to explain this law? We are not living in 1931. A new wave of inflation has swept the country with the imposition of GST. Billions of rupees are going out of the pockets of consumers. Colonial system is not functioning now. We have our own independent society. How can we shift the burden to the pockets of people due to the laws enacted in British era?"
CJ remarked, "If you go to the market, you will find price of every commodity has been raised. The price of the things increased once, cannot be withdrawn.
The court was told that it had been going on since 2007.The chief justice remarked, "It is wrong step even if it has been pursued since 1998 and it should be stopped."Meanwhile the court directed the counsel for the FBR to submit a comprehensive report regarding the GST collection and adjourned hearing of the case till today (Thursday).