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ISLAMABAD: The counsel representing Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf secretary general Jahangir Khan Tareen on Wednesday pleaded before the Supreme Court hearing the disqualification case not to interpret agriculture tax matters through the present petitions. Otherwise, he argued, it would amount to his tax auditing and might prejudice a similar reference already pending before the Lahore High Court and an appeal before the apex court the outcome of which would eventually come to the top court.

However, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar reminded Advocate Sikandar Bashir Mohmand that in his judgement in the Panama Papers case, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa had held that the power of the Supreme Court under Article 184(3) could not be circumscribed from hearing even when a similar matter was pending before any forum.

“What prevent or deter us from interpreting laws if similar cases are pending,” said the chief justice who was heading a three-judge bench, adding that the Supreme Court, being the ultimate court of law, was hearing the matter only to resolve intricate issues.

The court had taken up the petitions of PML-N leader Hanif Abbasi seeking disqualification of PTI chief Imran Khan and secretary general Jahangir Tareen over non-disclosure of assets, existence of thier offshore companies as well as the PTI being a foreign-aided party.

Justice Bandial says the court is looking into concealment of assets, and not the amount of income tax paid

The counsel, however, reminded the court that Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed had also held that the Supreme Court under Article 184(3) never went into tax matters.

The petitioner has alleged that Mr Tareen showed the revenue he earned and the tax paid in 2010 from the 18,566 acres of leased lands before the Federal Board of Revenue in his tax returns, but did not mention the same in his nomination papers submitted to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

When the counsel recalled that the tax tribunal had already held that his client had correctly computed the agriculture tax, Justice Umar Ata Bandial reminded that the tribunal had only scrutinised nine agreements on leased lands out of a total of 108, besides it never inquired about the ownership of the leased lands.

“Does it not amount to tax auditing when the court is trying to go behind finding the truth in tax matters?” the counsel asked. He said that the exercise taking place here in the court was complete overlapping of the proceedings already pending.

“My right to due process would be prejudiced,” the counsel emphasised, saying that no reassessment on agriculture income could be done after two years — a period after which agriculture tax paid attained finality and could not be reopened under Article 184(3) as ordained by the Punjab Agriculture Income Tax Act, 1997.

“We are only hearing a disqualification case because the petitioners alleged that your client was guilty of misdeclaration on oath by concealing agriculture income in his nomination papers,” observed Justice Bandial.

Even if the declaration was right, the petitioners were accusing Mr Tareen of concealing his agriculture income because he paid taxes on 507 acres of land owned by him and not of the 18,566 acres of the leased lands, Justice Bandial observed, reiterating that what the court was looking for was not the income tax paid but non-disclosure of the income.

“We are not bothered either you paid full tax or not, but we are hearing the allegations that your client allegedly laundered money through a tax-free income device because there was no tax on leased lands,” Justice Bandial observed.

Sikandar Mohmand, however, denied by emphasising that he made full disclosure since the income tax returns in which he showed all the income before the tax authorities that was part of his nomination forms through annexures.

Published in Dawn, October 12th, 2017