KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Wednesday restrained the cantonment boards from taking any coercive action against many more residents regarding recovery of property and conservancy tax based on enhanced annual rental value (ARV) subject to payment of old dues.

Hearing around 30 identical petitions, the SHC also directed the cantonment boards to issue fresh challans based on previous ARV along with 25 per cent amount of enhanced ARV.

When a two-judge bench, headed by Justice Mohammad Junaid Ghaffar, took up the petitions for hearing, some lawyers filed vakalatnama (power of attorney) on behalf of the Cantonment Board Clifton (CBC) and Cantonment Board Faisal (CBF).

The bench directed the lawyers for respective cantonments to file comments in several petitions and provide advance copies to the lawyers for petitioners.

It said that earlier, the bench had passed interim orders directing the respondents not to take any coercive action against the petitioners and during Wednesday’s proceedings, the copy of an earlier order, passed by another bench of the SHC on June 1, was placed on record on behalf of the respondents wherein certain directions had been given to petitioners to secure at least 25 per cent of the disputed amount.

The bench further noted that it pursued the order in question and apparently the contention of respondents’ lawyers appeared to be correct, adding that accordingly, the interim orders passed by this bench earlier in these petitions stood modified in the light of June 1 order.

The bench said, “As to recovery of any arrears of property tax as well as conservancy and water charges, based on the enhanced annual rental value (ARV) up to the year 2022-23, no coercive action shall be taken against the petitioners. This is however, subject to the payment of all such dues on the old/previous ARV for and up to 2022-23”.

“Insofar as payment of these charges, as above for the year 2023-24 is concerned, the respective cantonment boards shall issue fresh challans based on old/previous ARV along with to the extent of 25% of the amount so increased in the enhanced ARV”, it added.

While adjourning the hearing till Oct 18, the bench in its order further said that such challans be issued to the respective petitioners as early as possible and at least 15 days must be provided to them for making payment of the same.

“The above arrangement in respect of payment of 25% amount on the enhanced ARV is subject to final outcome of these petitions”, it concluded.

Hundreds of people residing in the jurisdictions of different cantonment boards have filed around 30 identical petitions in the SHC since last year against an increase in the property tax.

The petitioners, most of them are the residents of DHA and Clifton, had impugned a letter issued on Aug 23, 2022 by the assistant director general, military land & cantonments boards, Rawalpindi and contended that through such letter, an illegal exorbitant and arbitrarily assessed tax was imposed under the garb of house tax.

Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2023

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