Mir Shakil pleads SC to suspend notices against Jang Group

By our correspondent

ISLAMABAD: The Chief Executive of Jang Group of Publications, Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, on Monday, filed an application before the Supreme Court pleading the apex court to suspend the income tax notices served against the Group.

Filed under Order 33, Rule 6 of the Supreme Court Rules, the application says that the unlawful directions and the notices are creating difficulty and the petitioner is unable to pay salaries, utility bills, bank charges, suppliers bills, statutory dues, purchase of printing raw materials and daily expenses, both professionally and economically.

The petitioner has prayed the apex court to suspend the operation of the notices issued under Section 92 of the Income Tax Ordinance, 1979. "The workers of the Group and their families would face hardships and starvation if this application was not allowed. Besides, the balance of convenience is also in favour of the petitioner," the petition stated.

Settled by eminent lawyer, Sharifuddin Pirzada and drawn by Supreme Court Bar Association's president, Abid Hasan Minto, the application says that notices against Mir Javed Rahman (a director of the petitioner companies), Independent Newspapers Corporation (Pvt) Ltd, J&S Enterprises (Pvt) Ltd, Jang Private Limited and Combined Investments (Pvt) Ltd, were maliciously passed by the CBR (a respondent in the petition).

"All balances in these accounts have already been released by the respective banks to the tax authorities and the current balance in these accounts is zero," the application stated. As the alleged tax liability is still outstanding, the respective banks would remit any amount, credited into these accounts to the tax authorities in view of the notices. In these circumstances, the mala fide, exorbitant and exaggerated nature of the demand, all amount that would be credited into these accounts, would be passed on to the tax authorities, the application said.

The application says that a petition, under Article 184(3) of the Constitution, has already been filed, raising important questions of public importance relating to the enforcement of the fundamental rights, guaranteed under Articles 18, and 19. Along with the petition, an application for interim relief was also filed and later an amended application was filed, under Order 33 Rule 6, seeking directions that the CBR should release the newsprint and be restrained from withholding the same. A direction was also sought for withdrawing the instructions about freezing the operation of the accounts of some of the petitioners and one of the directors of the petitioners, namely, Mir Javed Rahman.

The counsel for the petitioners on that day also drew the attention of the bench that the accounts of a number of the petitioner's companies had been frozen by the tax authorities who work under the general control and supervision of the CBR. It was also pointed out that the accounts of Mir Javed Rahman and director of various companies, too, had been frozen. The bench had asked to list the details of salaries and expenses, as well as, names of banks and account numbers along with the application.

The application states that the officers, subordinate to the CBR, have issued notices under Section 92 of the Income Tax Ordinance to the banks directing them to release all amounts in the accounts to the income tax authorities. During the hearing, it was pointed out that the notices were creating problems and hardships. Because of this, it was difficult to pay bank charges towards letters of credit etc., and the banks could withdraw facilities, besides documentary credits would expire and new documentary credits would not be established due to which the foreign suppliers would not ship the newsprint.

It was obvious that if these facilities and supplies were interrupted or interfered with, the business of the publication would fold. The salaries of thousands of workers, staff and employees, could not be paid. The utility bills including those of electricity, gas, telephone and water could not be paid threatening disconnection of services and disruption of the business. The suppliers of various goods and services, vital for the function and survival of the newspapers/magazines, could not be paid, threatening disruption of supplies of these goods and services and cessation of these publications. The various statutory contributions could not be made thereby exposing the petitioners to different statutory penalties.

Withholding tax, already deducted, has to be paid now and non-payment would attract penalties, besides, rents and insurance premiums have to be paid, otherwise non-payment would result in ejectment proceedings and leaving the assets and business of the petitioner exposed to risk, the application added.

The News International Pakistan