ISLAMABAD, (SANA): Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has said that provisionaltax can not be imposed without the approval of the parliament, adding that the Federal Minister thinks that he could impose tax but it can not be done. Chief Justice said that only parliament can impose taxes and even the president can not impose tax .Chief Justice said that government should uphold the constitution as it has come into being under the constitution of the country.
A three-member bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on Wednesday resumed hearing of suo motu notice case taken over the increase in POL prices after an increase of General Sales Tax (GST) was announced.
The Supreme Court ordered for amendments to be made in the declaration made by the Finance Ministry for increase of sales tax on POL products.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry said that it is tragedy in the country that once the price of any commodity raises it does not come down, adding that those who are fleeing from the law are receiving sales tax from the masses.
The finance ministry had issued a declaration increasing POL prices to curb ‘hoarding’ of petroleum products after an increase of one per cent General Sales Tax was announced during the recently held budget session.
Chief Justice said that not even the President of Pakistan is authorized to impose any tax and that the increase in GST is illegal.
During the hearing, the Federal Board of Revenue officials submitted the list of items exempted from tax, according to which 70 items including eatables and medicines was exempted from imposition of tax.
Counsel for Oil and gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA), Advocate Salman Akram Raja and Attorney General of Pakistan Munir A Malik submitted that the government can increase GST on any product under according to the “Provisional Collection of Taxes Act-1931”.
Chief Justice replied that no law can be adopted which is repugnant to fundamental human rights.
He further said that the public would not be made to bear the additional burden under the guise of British-era laws, adding that colonial system of 1931 is not there in the country.
Chief Justice further remarked that the increase in GST had resulted in an increase of all commodities forcing out billions of rupees out of the consumers’ pockets.
Taking exception to non-registered fuel stations, Chief Justice said that those who never paid taxes are placing the burden of taxes on people.
He said that 90 percent of petrol pumps were non-registered and yet they had started receiving sales tax.
Chief Justice inquired as to whether the FBR knew number of its sales inspectors and their work. He said that violators of law are placing burden on people
He remarked that only the parliament is authorized to impose taxes. The Chief Justice said that the finance bill is being debated in the parliament while executive orders are being used for what is happening.
The federal government clarified that increased GST is not applicable on edible items and medicines.
On the occasion, Attorney General Munir A Malik presented federal government’s version in the case. He informed the bench that food items and drugs would be exempted from the increased levy.
He said that cooking oil, fruits, meat, vegetables, bakery items, poultry feed, eggs, lentils and many other items have been exempted from the GST.
In this regard, he said, the Finance ministry has issued directives to the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) not to collect the increased levy.
Munir A Malik said that levy was to be collected under an act of 1931, however, if the apex court considers it against the Constitution, the government can stop implementation of the law in the future, but it’s not possible to reimburse to people the collected amount.
Chief Justice remarked that immediate implementation of the GST can trigger an inflation storm. OGRA counsel Salman Akram Raja argued that if the collection of tax was illegal then the court should order to stop collection of this tax. The court adjourned hearing of case till today (Thursday)