ISLAMABAD: Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Chairman Ashfaq Ahmed on Tuesday briefed representatives of the judiciary and federal government on pending cases — in particular 13 so-called ‘mega cases’ — that had hampered the recovery of around Rs233 billion in taxes.

Convened by Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Athar Minallah after the federal cabinet expressed concern over the pendency of matters involving billions of rupees owed to the state exchequer, the briefing was attended by Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, the IHC registrar, Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan, and chairmen of the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) and Competition Commission of Pakistan.

Addressing a press conference after the cabinet meeting on Feb 15, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said that the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) could not recover Rs3,000 billion due to litigation and stay orders issued by the courts countrywide. He said the FBR was unable to recover money due to stay orders.

Meeting called in response to minister’s gripe about revenue stuck due to litigation

According to him, the cabinet stressed the need for setting up a forum for consultation between the federal government and the high court on important national issues.

Briefing the participants on the pending cases, the FBR chairman pointed out that a huge amount had been stuck up due to pending litigation in 13 mega cases, the federal information minister told the media after attending the meeting. He said the participants discussed ways and means for swift disposal of cases, since the massive amount involved in those matters was, after all, public money.

He did not elaborate on the reasons for delay in proceedings before the IHC, saying there were ‘technicalities and other issues’ involved.

The federal cabinet had called for a forum where stakeholders could deliberate upon for swift disposal of cases, the minister said, appreciating the IHC for taking the lead in providing something that was the need of the hour. Hailing the initiative taken by Justice Minallah, Mr Chaudhry expressed the hope that other high courts would follow suit.

Besides the information minister, attorney general and other participants, the IHC registrar had also written to Minister for Law and Justice Barrister Farogh Naseem, inviting him to the meeting, but the minister was not in attendance.

The government has proposed that the forum will help eliminate unnecessary delays in important administrative matters. Major pending cases include tax cases, investment, stay orders on administrative appointments, and other important cases, which have caused an irreparable loss to the country.

At present, considerable amounts of the FBR (Rs3 trillion) and regulatory bodies (Rs250 billion) are tied up in cases pending before the courts. If the term of stay orders is fixed, it would be beneficial for the country and the nation, said the information minister.

Published in Dawn, February 23rd, 2022

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