ISLAMABAD - The Islamabad High Court (IHC) deferred hearing in a petition challenging the appointment of Syed Shabbar Zaidi as Chairman Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).

A single bench of IHC comprising Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb conducted hearing of the petition and directed the petitioner to satisfy the court over maintainability of the petition.

After issuing these directions, the IHC bench adjourned hearing in this matter for one week.

The petitioner Ali Muhammad, a grade-19 officer of Inland Revenue, moved the petition through his counsel Saeed Ahmad Zaidi Advocate under Article 199 of Constitution and cited Secretary Establishment Division, FBR and the new FBR Chairman as respondents.

In his petition, Ali adopted that the respondents have wilfully committed contempt of this court (IHC) by violating its judgment dated 05-06-2013. He prayed to the court to declare Shabbar Zaidi’s appointment illegal, without any lawful authority and of no legal effect and void ab-initio. He requested the court to set aside his appointment notification as FBR chief.

The petitioner further prayed that during the pendency of this case respondent no.3 (Shabbar Zaidi) be restrained from working as chairman FBR and he be directed to return all benefits and costs of perks and privileges obtained by him during the course of his illegal appointment.

Directs petitioner to satisfy court about maintainability

He said that Shabbar Zaidi has been working in the private sector as a partner of firm of professional chartered accountants. “By virtue of his profession as Chartered Accountant the Respondent No. 3 has been regularly representing taxpayers in tax matter before the FBR and its subordinate tax authorities.”

The petitioner maintained that according to the law declared by this Court under the FBR Act, 2007, a person from private sector may be appointed chairman FBR in exceptional and extraordinary circumstances through a duly advertised competitive process. Supreme Court in Tariq Azizuddin, Anita Turab, Muhammad Yasin and Hajj corruption cases laid down guidelines for selection and appointments against top level posts in the government and the public sector organizations.

He said that Zaidi’s appointment, claimed to be made on an “honorary basis/pro bono basis” is patently illegal and without jurisdiction because there is no law which permits the post of FBR chairman filled up on ‘honorary basis’ or as ‘pro bono basis’.

Ali submitted these expressions are alien to the law and Constitution therefore the respondent no. 3 would not be accountable for his actions, omissions and performance and would not be amenable to the disciplinary and accountability laws and rules governing holders of such appointment.

He contended that Zaidi’s appointment by Secretary Establishment is patently illegal, in abuse and excess of power and jurisdiction prescribed by law. He alleged that the appointment has been made in a whimsical manner of pick and chose and has been made without any advertisement or carrying out any transparent competitive selection process and without determination of merit.

The petitioner stated that the summary, stated to have been placed before the cabinet, for appointment respondent 3 as chairman candidly mentions that a competitive process after advertisement and competition are sine qua non for the appointment from private sector. Consequently, it is an admission that the process of appointment of respondent 3 was unlawful and in utter disregard of merit and in patent violation of this court judgement in W.P. No.812/2013.

He was of the view that Shabbar Zaidi’s appointment has given rise to a very serious problem of ‘conflict of interest’, which is evident from the very first action that he announced that henceforth his “personal prior approval” will be required whenever a defaulting taxpayers’ bank account is to be attached for tax recovery by an officer. This shows the respondent no.3 enthusiasm to issue orders, which would tend to adversely affect revenue collection and hat too contrary to the law which does not confer any such powers on the FBR chairman.

The petitioner said Shahbar Zaidi has also neither been asked nor has he himself declared any details of cases which he or his partnership are representing before the FBR and its subordinate offices or the Appellate Tribunal Inland Revenue.