ISLAMABAD - A division bench of Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday suspended the verdict of a single bench of the same court that had declared amnesty scheme for smuggled vehicles as illegal.

The DB comprising Justice Riaz Ahmad Khan and Justice Noor-ul-Haq N Qureshi, passed the order in an intra-court appeal (ICA) moved by Federal Board of Revenue.

During the hearing of the ICA, the court also issued notices to the parties in this connection and deferred the hearing. It is pertinent to mention here that Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of IHC had declared the amnesty scheme as null and void on June 19. The previous PPP government had introduced the scheme by giving concession of duties and taxes on illegally imported/smuggled/seized vehicles through an SRO 172(I)/2013 dated March 5, 2013.

In his verdict, Justice Siddiqui had directed the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to seize all the 50,901 vehicles and auction them.

Later, FBR moved an intra court appeal (ICA) that was fixed for hearing on Monday.

The counsel for FBR, Athar Minallah advocate, contended before the court that it was not the alone amnesty scheme, but it was a fourth one of this kind in the last 20 years. The impugned judgment had said that the federal government lacked powers to issue such an SRO.  The counsel maintained that out of 50,901 vehicles almost 47,000 were 10-year old and some of these were even 25-year-old. He told the court that all the vehicles were already in the country. The FBR not only levied duties and taxes on these vehicles but also imposed fine and collected Rs 15.3 billion on this account.

After hearing the arguments, the division bench suspended the verdict of the single bench and adjourned the hearing with a date in office. Earlier, the single bench of IHC, in its detailed judgment, had observed that the amnesty scheme for smuggled/seized vehicles had caused Rs 35 billion loss to the national exchequer.

The judge had also observed, “It is beyond understanding why the amnesty scheme was made applicable to the vehicles already confiscated by the Customs authorities that could have fetched far more revenue through an open auction.

Perhaps, the government officials would also desire to reap fruits of their sullied hands by taking a piece of the pie.” The court further noted that the SRO had not been framed for the welfare of the people of Pakistan; rather it had been framed by certain influential people for their own benefit and the benefit of certain privileged class.

The single bench had noted in the June 19 verdict that amnesty schemes should be abolished permanently as they are used by politicians to pursue political objectives at the cost of the rule of law.