ISLAMABAD -  The Supreme Court on Saturday dismissed a review petition of the federal government regarding the prime minister’s powers to levy or give exemption in taxes.

A three-member SC bench headed by Justice Saqib Nisar while taking up the review petition against the apex court’s judgment observed that the prime minister could not bypass the cabinet in the matter. Justice Saqib said that “the constitution does not allow the prime minister to take a solo flight, adding that only the federal government has the power to exempt or levy taxes.

The importers of cellular phones and textile goods had challenged the notifications before the Islamabad High Court that those were not in accordance with the Section 3 of the Sales Act. The high court, however, dismissed their petitions. The importers had filed appeals against the IHC verdict in the apex court, which disposed it of.

The federal government earlier had granted certain exemptions from sales tax , but subsequently, these exemptions were either withdrawn or tax rates modified vide notifications, which were issued under the provisions of Sales Tax Act, 1990.

Justice Saqib said that nowhere it was written in the constitution that the prime minister or any minister or adviser was the federal government, adding the Rules of Business 1973 could not be superior to the constitution. He questioned whether the prime minister could sanction anything without the approval of the cabinet .

The judge said that according to the constitution the federal government comprises the prime minister and the federal ministers. He said that the PM was the chief executive of the country, but he can’t be called the federal government.

Additional Advocate General Rana Waqar appearing on behalf of the federation and argued that for running the country there was a need of strong premier. The court after hearing the arguments dismissed the petition.

The apex court on August 18 rejected the appeal of the federation against the Islamabad High Court verdict. It ruled that the prime minister could not take decisions on his own regarding ordinances, bills and financial matters.

The court had struck down the fiscal notifications enhancing the levy of tax issued by the secretary revenue division or the minister and declared them ultra vires.

The judgment said the federal government was the collective entity described as the cabinet , comprising the prime minister and the federal ministers. It said that neither a secretary, nor a minister, or nor the prime minister was the federal government and exercise, or purported exercise, of a statutory power, which is exercisable by the federal government if exercised by any of them, pertaining to fiscal matters will be constitutionally invalid and nullity in the eyes of law.

It ruled that the cabinet has to be given reasonable opportunity to consider, deliberate on and take decisions in relation to all proposed legislation including the Finance Bill or Ordinance or Act, and in this regard, actions taken by the prime minister on his own were not valid and also were declared ultra vires.

The judgment said that the function of the chief executive (PM) was to execute and implement the policy decisions taken by the cabinet . The PM executes policy decision and does not take them by himself.