Islamabad High Court Puts Hold on Blocking Non-Filers’ SIMs in Pakistan

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has issued a significant ruling regarding the Federal Board of Revenue’s (FBR) attempt to block the SIM cards of non-tax filers. Here’s a breakdown of the situation:

FBR’s Move to Block SIMs:

  • In April 2024, the FBR issued an order to disable mobile phone SIMs of over 500,000 individuals who failed to file income tax returns for the 2023 tax year.

Mobile Company Challenges Order:

  • A leading mobile phone company filed a petition challenging the legality and constitutionality of the FBR’s order (Income Tax General Order 1 of 2024).

IHC’s Decision:

  • The IHC Chief Justice ruled that the FBR cannot enforce the order without first issuing notices to the non-filers.
  • The non-filers must be given an opportunity to explain why they haven’t filed their tax returns.
  • The court also issued a notice to the FBR and directed them to refrain from taking any coercive measures against the mobile company petitioner.

Arguments Against FBR Order:

  • The mobile company argued that the FBR’s order violates Article 18 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to freedom of movement.
  • They also contended that the relevant section of the Income Tax Ordinance (section 114B) is not a money bill and its passing might have violated Article 73 of the Constitution.

Current Status:

  • The order to block SIM cards is currently on hold.
  • The IHC’s decision provides temporary relief for non-filers who haven’t received notices.
  • The FBR will need to respond to the court’s notice and potentially adjust their approach.

Previously Blocked SIMs:

  • As of May 23, 2024, the FBR reported blocking approximately 11,252 SIM cards of non-filers.
  • The fate of these blocked SIMs remains unclear, and further developments from the court case are awaited.

It’s important to note that this is a developing situation. Stay informed about any further updates from the Islamabad High Court and the FBR.

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