Auditor-General of Pakistan and the contempt of Federal Tax Ombudsman

12 Jun

FTO

Hussain Saqib

A ridiculous situation has emerged in Pakistan whereby holders of two constitutional offices, the Auditor-General (AGP) and the Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO), have locked horns over a trivial matter. The AGP had observed that the FTO was not entitled to claim a certain allowance meant for members of judiciary. The FTO, armed with the powers of punishing anybody for contempt of his office, took exception to it and issued a contempt notice under section 16 of the governing statute of his office. Not only that, the honorable FTO ordered the police to arrest AGP and produce him before the FTO.

Before we deliberate on the issue, let us look at section 16 of FTO Ordinance, 2000. Under this provision, the FTO shall have the same powers, mutatis mutandis, as the Supreme Court has to punish any person for its contempt who abuses, interferes with, impedes, imperils, or obstructs the process of the Federal Tax Ombudsman in any way or disobeys any order of the Federal Tax Ombudsman. These powers also includes to prosecute someone for contempt of the FTO who scandalizes the FTO or otherwise does anything which tends to bring the Federal Tax Ombudsman, Staff Members, nominees of the Office, or any person authorized by the Federal Tax Ombudsman in relation to his Office into hatred, ridicule or contempt. There is a proviso to this provision under which fair comments made in good faith and in public interest on the working of the Federal Tax Ombudsman or any Staff Member, or on the final report of the Federal Tax Ombudsman after the completion of the investigation shall not constitute contempt of the Federal Tax Ombudsman or his Office.

Obviously, these powers have been given to the FTO to ensure that he performs his functions without fear or favor. His core functions, according to preamble of the law, are to diagnose, investigate, redress and rectify any injustice done to a person through maladministration by functionaries administering tax laws. It seems that the objection of the AGP to the claim of FTO for a certain allowance does not come under scandalizing. The AGP, or the officer authorized by him, discharges his functions under the Constitution and his audit teams raise thousands of objections everyday which hardly draw the ire of concerned quarters as to use the powers unfairly given to them to perform their respective functions.

AGP and the FTO are two respectable constitutional offices irrespective of the fact who holds the office. Unfortunately, the media had successfully made the office of AGP controversial the day present incumbent, being the senior-most in his department was tipped to hold this office. Irrespective of his personal connections with the political leadership, the fact remains that he heads a highly respected constitutional office. To settle the score of his perceived nearness with the prime minister of the day, the entire office of AGP was scandalized and held in disrepute. He has to perform his functions without fear or favor. The best course of action would be to seek advice of the concerned quarters and settle the matter. As of today, the functionaries of the AGP office feel coerced and would be deprived of their right to work objectively.

The situation can be termed as ridiculous to say the least. Imagine, if the AGP was also equipped with the powers to prosecute for contempt of his office. Moreover, objecting to drawl of certain allowance is something very personal to the holder of the office of FTO and objection to this does not, prima facie, constitute scandalizing or hatred or even ridicule of FTO as an institution. This is a sorry state of affairs and has to be addresses to mitigate the damages caused to two state institutions.

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One Response to “Auditor-General of Pakistan and the contempt of Federal Tax Ombudsman”

  1. Rizwan Ahmed February 21, 2014 at 5:39 am #

    It is unfortunate that correct legal position has not been first thrashed out. The FTO is not at all a Constitutional functionary since his appointment is made u/s 3 of FTO Ordinance 2000 and not under any of the Constitutional provision. It is a misstatement of ex- FTO Shoaib Suddle who was a sworn enemy of law and was a vindictive person. The Apex Court has held in case PLD 2001 SC 142 (Shafat-Ullah Qureshi Vs Federation of Pakistan) that an ombudsman is “neither a court nor even a Judicial tribunal within the scope of Article 175 of the Constitution and cannot deliver a binding judgment having finality.”. The Full Apex Court in case PLD 2012 Sc 939 (Baz Muhammad kakar V.Federation of Pakistan) has held that no authority or officer had the powers of Contempt except the Supreme Court or a High Court and if any law confers such a power it would be repugnant to Article 204 of the Constitution. Suddle played havoc while abusing his position only because he was a foot licker of the notorious ex-chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary who used Suddle as a puppet to secure benefit and camouflage the corruption of his son- Arsalan Iftikhar. He was a semblance of corruption and being FTO made up a gang to mint money by causing to issue bogus refunds to Tax evaders. It was a misfortune that he humiliated persons out of his unholy alliance with ex-CJ. he is now every possible effort to hunt the Post of Chairman HEC.

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