IHC stops govt from blocking SIMs of non-filers

IHC CJ Aamer Farooq issues stay order till May 27 against govt move to block SIMs

By
Awais Yousafzai
A representational image of several sim cards. — AFP/File
  • Court issues stay order on govt's move till May 27.
  • IHC takes up petition filed by mobile phone company. 
  • Counsel says decision will result in loss of Rs1bn. 

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday stopped the government from blocking the SIMs of non-filers. 

IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq issued a stay order till May 27 as the court took up the petition today filed by a mobile phone company challenging the government's decision to block sims of non-filers. 

The development came days after the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and telecom operators agreed on blocking of SIMs of non-filers as part of the government's bid to curb tax evasion to improve revenue generation amid dire economic indicators. 

The FBR had announced that telecom companies have agreed to commence the manual blocking process of SIMs in small batches until their systems are fully equipped to automate it.

The tax collection body said that the first batch comprising 5,000 non-filers has been communicated to the telecom operators and that more batches would be sent to telecom operators on a daily basis.

Meanwhile, the operators had also commenced sending messages to non-filers regarding the blocking of their SIMs for intimation purposes.

FBR and telecom operators had been holding meetings over the resulting deadlock after the latter refused to implement the former's decision to block 500,000 SIMs of individuals who do not appear on the active taxpayer list but are liable to file the Income Tax Return for Tax Year 2023.

During the hearing, petitioner's counsel Salman Akram Raja said that the amendment in the law is at odds with Article 18 of Constitution which guarantees freedom to do business.

Raja said that there cannot be any legislation contrary to the fundamental rights given in the Constitution.

He told the court that the government cannot take the authority of blocking the mobile phone SIMs of the people by making amendments to the law.

"Blocking more than 500,000 SIMs will result in a loss of Rs1 billion annually," the counsel said.