ISLAMABAD: In a request letter sent to the prime minister, Syed Tauqeer Bukhari, president of the Rawalpindi/Islamabad Tax Bar Association (TBA), has said that access to justice is one of the most important rights of the citizens and if there is any threat to the independence of judiciary, it would be tantamount to denial of justice. He said that justice is a fundamental right of a common man under Article 9 of the Constitution.
He also emphasised that under the relevant provision of the income tax, sales tax, and federal excise duty, an Inland Revenue Officer (IRO) issues show cause notice to a taxpayer, the same officer passes order in favour or against the taxpayer. Against the said order, the taxpayer files the first appeal before the learned Commissioner Inland Revenue-Appeals and the said officer is also Inland Revenue officer under the command and control of the FBR, which is not an independent forum.
In addition, the Appellate Tribunal Inland Revenue is also second and final appellate forum, which was independent forum in past, comprising of one accountant and one judicial members of the bench. Under the provisions of section 130 of the Income Tax Ordinance 2001, the accountant member will be from FBR or practicing chartered accountant with at least 10-years professional experience and the judicial member will be a person with experience as the district judge and is qualified for a judge of the High Court or advocate High Court, or qualifying to be a judge of the High Court.
Whereas, section 130 of the Income Tax Ordinance 2001 was amended through Finance Act, 2013 according to which the Inland Revenue officer of the FBR having no any judicial experience is eligible for the post of member judicial. The appeals of the taxpayers will be adjudicated by two IROs of the FBR that is also against the independence of judicial systems.
The President, Rawalpindi/Islamabad Tax Bar Association also given the model of reformed structure for taxation judicial system according to which setup of Tax Courts in Pakistan, the post of 1st appellate commissioner must be independent having no concern with FBR and direct appointment made on the basis of relevant experience.
Whereas, the powers exercise by the Appellate Tribunal Inland Revenue (ATIR) are in essence “judicial power” or the state. The ATIR must be under the supervision and administrative control of the High Court concerned and such supervision/control includes appointment of the Chairman and other member of the ATIR.
He categorically mentioned in his written request that while framing the Nation Judicial Policy, mandate of Article 203 read with Article 175 was re-emphasized under the heading “Independence of Judiciary”. He also referred Clause 6 of the judicial policy and requested the prime minister as well as finance minister that the federal government may amend the relevant laws to bring the judges and staff of the tribunal in purview of the respective High Court.