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October 21, 2019
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SC restores all taxes on mobile phone cards

ISLAMABAD:  The Supreme Court vacated the stay order against the collection of taxes on mobile top-ups, cards, restoring all the taxes and charges.

The Supreme Court wrapped up the suo-moutu notice taken by the former Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Saqib Nisar relating the taxes and charges being collected from the consumers on top-up cards.

Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa read out the short order, saying the top court “would not interfere in the matters of public revenue and tax collection”.

In June 2018, the apex court had suspended the deduction of taxes on prepaid cards provided by mobile phone service providers.

A three-judge bench completed the hearing on the suo motu case today after hearing the arguments of Attorney General for Pakistan and advocate generals of all four provinces.

Justice Qazi Faez Isa during the hearing questioned whether there was a precedent of using Article 184(3) of the Constitution, which empowers the apex court to pass any order to enforce fundamental rights, in cases related to tax enforcement.

The chief justice recalled that the matter was brought into the notice of the bench through the Human Rights Cell of the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan remarked that the collection of taxes from non-filers was a violation of fundamental human rights. He noted that while there were only 1.3 million taxpayers in the country, mobile tax was being levied on more than 20m citizens.

The bench had taken up a case relating to an unreasonably high amount of tax/other charges being deducted from the topping up of mobile balance through ‘easy load’ and calling cards and taxes charged on phones calls — with Rs40 being deducted in the form of different taxes for every Rs100 charge — on public complaints.

The suo motu notice was taken by former chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar on May 3, 2018, on the grounds that the matter involved public interest. The ex-CJP later on June 11 suspended the deduction of sales tax and at another hearing pertaining to the development of Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand Dams had asked the federation to explore avenues to redirect the amounts so recovered to the dam funds.