ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday summoned from high courts all the pending cases relating to Gas Development Infrastructure Cess (GIDC) 2015.
“Let the registrars of all the high courts pass on [to the Supreme Court] the list of all the cases involving GIDC Act 2015 and also notify the respective counsel representing different petitioners about the pendency of the matter in the Supreme Court,” Justice Mushir Alam said while dictating an order after hour-long proceedings.
The order also required lawyers pleading the cases to join the proceedings before the apex court if they choose so. But they were given an option to appear in person before the SC at the principal seat or join through a video link.
Hints at commencing hearing on a daily basis from 29th
Likewise, the interveners or those who wished to join the proceedings at the apex court should file additional documents as well as the parties considering participating in the proceedings to furnish before the court a consolidated concise statement.
The court also hinted at commencing hearing on a daily basis once it meets on Oct 29 (Tuesday afternoon). The federal government was represented by Deputy Attorney General Sohail Mahmood.
Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, another member of the bench, observed that it would be fair and equitable to hear all those who were going to be affected with the SC decision. “We have been told about pending matters before the Lahore High Court as well as the Sindh High Court,” he remarked.
At the outset of the hearing when senior counsel Makhdoom Ali Khan representing several CNG station owners appeared before the SC Karachi registry, which was connected to the apex court in Islamabad through a video link, Justice Alam said: “Welcome to the next generation of the court.”
Mr Khan reminded the court about Article 186A of the Constitution that empowers the SC to only transfer any case from one high court to another. At the same time, he expressed the hope that any decision that the SC rendered would deal with the future prospects only instead of opening closed cases since there were around 370 petitioners who already had cases by different courts in the matter.
The counsel was of the opinion that the federal government had levied a tax through GIDC Act 2015 without a legislative competence since this cess did not fall within Entries 43 to 53 of the Federal Legislative List (FLL) in the Fourth Schedule that dealt with the imposition of taxes.
Without a constitutional amendment, the government could not pass a new law for imposing tax that did not cover Entries 43 to 53, he argued.
Mr Khan then asked the bench if it would endorse a law that did not fall within Entries 43 to 53 even if the federal government would get it passed through parliament. Therefore, the SC would have to examine and determine whether the language of GIDC Act 2015 conformed to the heart and mind of the two houses of the parliament, the counsel argued.
Earlier, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Additional Advocate General reminded the court about an application requesting to notify all the high courts to provide complete information to the apex court about the pending cases with them relating to the GIDC.
On Sept 6, the federal government through Attorney General Anwar Mansoor had furnished a request before the apex court for out-of-turn hearing of pending GIDC cases after Prime Minister Imran Khan had withdrawn the GIDC (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019.
Matter regarding the GIDC gained attention when the PTI government promulgated a controversial ordinance with an offer to grant Rs210 billion amnesty to fertiliser, general industry, independent power producers, generation companies, K-Electric and CNG sector.
According to a statement issued by PM Office, the total amount of money stuck in the GIDC litigation between 2012 and 2018 had risen to Rs417 billion.
In its application, the government had said the cases relating to the GIDC Act 2015 involved huge revenue. The matter had been pending since 2017 as a verdict given by the Peshawar High Court upholding the vires of the law had been challenged, it had contended.
Through its May 31, 2017 order, the PHC had rejected a set of petitions challenging the validity of the GIDC Act 2015 on the grounds that the transgression of legislative authority by the federation did not qualify as a breach of fundamental rights of citizens and, therefore, the petitioners before the high court were not aggrieved persons.