Didn't stop govt from blocking SIMs of non-filers: IHC

The govt has decided to block SIMs of non-filers in a bid to bring people into the tax net

Awais Yousafzai
The Islamabad High Court (IHC) building in Islamabad. — APP/File
  • Non-filers to be issued notices from Nov 2023: attorney general.
  • SIMs of those who submitted tax to be restored, he says.
  • Justice Aamer Farooq issues notice on govt's plea for May 22.

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice Aamer Farooq of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday said that he didn’t stop the authorities from blocking the SIMs of non-filers and the order only barred the government from taking any action against the telecom operators.

Media on Tuesday reported that the IHC had issued a stay order on a petition filed by a mobile operator challenging the Federal Board of Revenue’s (FBR) move.

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

After lengthy deliberations among the stakeholders, the FBR announced earlier this month 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 had said that the first batch comprising 5,000 non-filers had been communicated to the telecom operators and that more batches would be sent to telcos on a daily basis.

Earlier, it was decided to block 500,000 SIMs of individuals who did not appear on the active taxpayer list but were liable to file the Income Tax Return for Tax Year 2023.

Today’s hearing

At the onset of the hearing of a miscellaneous plea, the attorney general said he had come to get the stay order on blocking of mobile phone SIMs dismissed.

To which, the chief justice remarked that the last order was not what it was reported in the media. He said the order didn’t stay the blockage of SIMs instead he stopped taking action against the private companies.

The chief justice inquired if a labourer or poor person would also be included in the tax net. To this query, the attorney general said poor people would not be sent a notice regarding SIM closure.

The CJ said it was feared that the FBR would include everyone in its net, so there should be some rules and regulations as not everyone could visit the FBR and give clarification about their status.

The attorney general apprised the bench that the non-filers would be issued notices from November 2023 and those who have paid their taxes should not be worried.

The FBR authorities would restore SIMs upon satisfaction, he maintained.

On the request of the attorney general, the IHC issued notice on the government’s miscellaneous petition seeking a reply on May 22.