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Order on Appeal No 2114-08/22 Ahmed Saeed Vs Federal Board of Revenue

This commission holds that the provision of Yes/No answer to the Appellant, based on the records available with the Respondent, FBR is warranted under the provisions of the Act, 2017 and also as it is a matter of public importance under Article 19-A of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan on the following grounds:

  • Section 25 of the Act, 2017 trumps and overrides provisions of Income Tax Ordinance 2001 with regard to disclosure, or, otherwise of information/records held by the Respondent, FBR.
  • The secrecy clauses of the Income Tax Ordinance 2001  can supplement but cannot supplant provisions of the Act, 2017.
  • the appellant has not sought access to documents but only sought whether or not the public money /tax is collected on the amount received (as show in the documentary evidence provided by the appellant) which only requires Yes/No answer, based on the records available with the Respondent, FBR.
  • The question of privacy concerns does not arise as if the answer is in the affirmative, instead of bringing into disrepute name of the individual concerned, would enhance his reputation as a person who abides by the laws of the land and pays due taxes. (The Respondent, FBR celebrates and acknowledges citizens who pay their taxes)
  • If the answer of the Respondent, FBR, based on the records available, is in the negative, it would bring to the fore the fact that the amount in question is either still kept hidden from the FBR, or, officials concerned are not performing their functions properly and efficiently, hence help promote public accountability, one of the core objectives behind the enactment of the Act, 2017

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Order on Appeal No. 2035-06/2022 Muhammad Hashim Vs Federal Board of Revenue

The appellant initiated a complaint against Syed Abid Ali Bukhari with the allegation that he has evaded to pay the tax and that huge amount is outstanding against him. He has requested provision of the information and record culminated on his complaint so that he may be cognizant of the complaint. The appellant has appended along with the appeal copy of the finding and recommendation recorded by Dr. Asif Mahmood Jah, Federal Tax Ombudsman on the complaint Nos. 2189 & 2190/MLN/IT/2021 initiated by Muhammad Hashim appellant.

All the reports including performance reports, audit reports, evaluation reports, inquiry or investigative reports that have been finalized are enlisted in the category of record that ought to have been published and posted on the official website of the public body to make it accessible to the public at large, as mandated in section 5(i) of the Act of 2017. Moreover, the appellant being the initiator of an inquiry in the public interest has highlighted the evasion of tax, reserves his preferential right to know the outcome of his complaint.

In all the matters of public importance, the citizens have the right of access to the information and record as enunciated under Article 19A of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973.

Transparency in the working of the government departments is the essence for the enactment of the Act 2017. Its spirit is to ensure that the people of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan have access to the records held by the federal public bodies for making the government accountable to the people. This practise would improve the participation of the people in the public affairs aimed at reducing corruption, nepotism, discrimination, misuse of power and inefficiency in the governance.

The Public Information Officer, Federal Board of Revenue, Islamabad is directed to furnish the appellant all the requested information and record, forthwith, but in any case not later than seven days of the receipt of this order.

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Order on Appeal No 1895-05/22 Shah Mohiuddin Vs Federal Board of Revenue

This commission has held through its earlier Orders that minutes of official meetings, noting on the files and intermediary opinions are exempted from disclosure under Section 7 only if final decision has not been taken on the issue being deliberated upon in official meetings. Once final decision has been taken, minutes of meetings, intermediary opinions and noting on files become public documents, unless hit by any of the exemption clause of the Right of Access to Information Act, 2017 which is not the case in the instant Appeal.

The disclosure of ‘minutes of meetings’, ‘intermediary opinions and ‘noting on the files’ during the deliberative process is protected to ensure that outside influence does not create hindrances in the deliberative process. However, once a public body has taken a final decision, as is the case in the instant appeal, minutes of the meetings cannot be treated as excluded records.

This commission maintains that access to the requested information cannot be denied on the grounds of lis alibi pendens.   This commission has maintained through its different Orders that pendency of the writ petition between the parties does not bar the provision of information under the Act unless specifically barred by the court itself, or, under the provisions of the Act. Therefore, the contention of the Respondent does not hold water.

Our ability to exercise our fundamental right of access to information enables us to attain our other fundamental rights such as gainful employment, right to life, right to clean drinking water, right to breathe in in clean air and right to healthcare services etc. In fact, the constitutional right of access to information helps citizens in the exercise of right of access to justice as well by having access to records/information to effectively present their cases in the court of law.

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Order on Appeal No 1690-01/2022 Rana Abrar Khalid Vs Federal Board of Revenue

The appellant has desired the list of officers working in or with the Federal Board of Revenue who are holding dual citizenship or got married to a foreign national and are providing their services or consultancy (temporary / regular / part time) to the local or international (or both) NGOs., Community Development Organizations, Community Development Corporations, Non-profit Organization’s, think tanks, research Organizations/centers, consultancy firms / Organizations and further inquired whether any action against such officers has been initiated by the Federal Board of Revenue.

The Commission is of the considered view that the appellant being a citizen of Pakistan reserves the right to have access to the desired information and record under article 19A of the Constitution of Pakistan read with the Right of Access to Information Act, 2017

The appeal is allowed. The Secretary (Compliance), Federal Board of Revenue is directed to provide the appellant all the requested information mentioned in para 1 of this order, forthwith, but in any case not later than seven days of the receipt of this order.

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Order on Appeal No 984-04/21 Waheed Shahzad Butt Vs Federal Board of Revenue

It needs to be understood that Section 11 of the 2018 Ordinance prohibits the disclosure of “particulars of any person making a declaration under this Ordinance or any information received in any declaration made under this Ordinance” which is not the case in the instant Appeal. In the instant Appeal, the Appellant has not sought amount declared by identifiable individuals through SRO of 2013 which is also exempted from disclosure under different clauses of Section 7 and Section 16 of the Right of Access to Information Act, 2017.

The Appellant has only sought information about the number of individuals and total amount declared through the amnesty schemes in different formation of the Respondent, FBR through amnesty scheme under the SRO of 2013.

This commission holds that the disclosure of requested information about total number of individuals/companies, total amount declared through different formation of FBR under SRO 2013 is not hit by any of the exemption clauses of the Right of Access to Information Act, 2017 as such disclosure will not reveal names of any identifiable individual and any company leading to actionable breach of confidence and invasion of privacy of identifiable individuals.

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Order on Appeal No 1280-08/21 Muhammad Ikram Shah Vs Federal Board of Revenue

In the instant appeal the citizen has requested the Customs Collector, Islamabad to provide him data regarding the number of vehicles (Make and Model) on the strength of your esteemed Directorate General being used for operational purpose or for any other purposes with Make; Model and date of allocation since last five years along with Log Books and some other information.

This Commission maintain that disclosure of this information will improve the check and balance on the performance of the public bodies and by practicing Right to Information laws the citizen will able to make the public bodies accountable for their performance.

The appeal is allowed. The Secretary (DT-FATE) / Public Information Officer, Federal Board of  Revenue is directed to provide the requested information to the appellant with intimation to this office, at the earliest, but in any case, not later than 10 working days of the receipt of this Order.

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Order on Appeal No 1259-08/2021, 1260-08/2021, 1261-08/2021 M. Saleem Butt Vs Establishment Division, Ministry of Law and Justice & Federal Board of Revenue

In the instant Appeal the appellant herein instead asking for any specific information or record available with the public bodies in printed or digital form has raised a set of interrogations and questions built on his allegations and claims against the department. He has made his own arguments / propositions thereto and sought rebuttal thereof. In stricto sensu the questions that cannot be answered by the public body in printed or digital form does not make a request under the RTI Act of 2017. Section 11(3) of the Act specifically requires the request to identify the information or record in sufficient detail failing which it does not make a valid and legal request under the Act.

This Commission maintains that the request under the Act must be in accordance with the Act. All the prerequisites in section 11 of the Act must be adhered to by the applicants. The request by a citizen must be in writing and made in the manner in which the public body has the facility to receive it, identifying the information or record sought in sufficient detail to enable the public body to locate it and which provide complete address and contact details for delivery of the information or record, shall be treated as a valid request. Any perquisite missing in the request will make it void and can be negated by the public body.

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Order on Appeal No. 242-02-2020 Pervez Said Vs Federal Board of Revenue

The appellant in his request has questioned the FBR authorities, whether the income tax recovery process has been initiated against Malik Riaz Hussain for the disclosed sum of £190 million of undeclared wealth in the United Kingdom, if not than how and when FBR plans to recover the same. The request is devised from the clipping of newspaper ‘DAWN’ dated December 03, 2019 which unveiled that Assets Recovery Unit confirmed that as a result of investigation by the National Crime Agency of the United Kingdom Malik Riaz Hussain has agreed to a settlement of amount worth £190 million. The clipping also linked it to the statement released from the office of Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on accountability Mr. Shahzad Akbar that Britain had agreed to an immediate repatriation of the funds received after settlement and hailed it as a success story of close cooperation between the United Kingdom and Pakistan law enforcement agencies and efforts made by Justice and Accountability partnership created between the two countries.

This Commission allowed the Appeal and directed the Secretary (DT-FATE) / Designated Officer, Federal Board of Revenue is directed to provide the appellant information as to whether the income tax recovery process has been initiated against Malik Riaz Hussain for the disclosed sum of £190 million of undeclared wealth in the United Kingdom, if not than how and when FBR plans to recover the same.

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Order on Appeal No 763-12-2020 Abdullah Malik Vs Federal Board of Revenue

The Appellant requested the Federal Board of Revenue to provide him the detailed information at the given format regarding vehicles which were taken into custody due to non-payment of custom duty from 1.1.2015 till to date and under what law an officer is using the same vehicles for their personal use as in Lahore the additional collector is using the said vehicles and there are four vehicles parked outside his residence 15-B, Askari 10, Lahore and the same were caught by the custom department Lahore for non-payment of custom duty. In 2018 the Chief Justice Supreme Court of Pakistan took the Sue Moto notice for misuse of unauthorized vehicles like land cruiser etc and the same is still pending but in spite of said notice the officer of FBR are still using the said vehicles un authorizingly and the act fall under misuse of power / authority serious action may be taken against them and the same may be communicated to the undersigned. We hope that your office will take serious notice at my complaint as the Prime Minister of Pakistan has already want to see corruption free FBR.

The respondent organization has provided the lists of non-duty paid and tempered vehicles from 01.01.2015 till date but has not provided the list of vehicles withdrawn from all officers, beyond the entitlement of the officers in the FBR (HQ) and field formations of PCS and IRS, in compliance of the direction of the Supreme Court and the affidavit submitted in the Supreme Court to that affect. The appellant has desired the provision of that list as well in his rejoinder.

This Commission has directed the Secretary (DT-FATE), Federal Board of Revenue is directed to provide the list of vehicles withdrawn, beyond the entitlement of the officers in the FBR (HQ) and field formations of PCS and IRS, in compliance of the direction of the Supreme Court in suomoto case no. 11/2018 and the affidavit submitted in the Supreme Court to that affect to the Appellant.

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Order on Appeal No 1282-08-2021 Muhammad Ikram Shah Vs Federal Board of Revenue

This commission maintains that the contention of the Respondent-2 that the Appellant has not submitted fee along with the information request is legally untenable. Exercising powers vested in this commission under Section 27 of the Act, Pakistan Information Commission has notified „Schedule of Costs‟. Under this, there is no fee for filing information request and there is no fee for first 50 pages. However, public bodies can charge Rs. 2 per page for every extra page.

If the Respondent-2 has issued confiscated “Arms and Ammunition to the officers and staff of customs and to all field formation officers of customs”, the disclosure of the information as to who issued and to whom these confiscated arms and Ammunition were issued against what fee is a matter of public importance and as such this information should be made available to the Appellant. The disclosure of this information is warranted by both the letter and the spirit of the Act.

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