FBR officer disobeying FTO orders sent to jail

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LAHORE: Muhammad Saleem, an FBR officer sentenced by the Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO) in a contempt case, has a long history of more than a decade of not obeying and respecting the FTO office. The officers of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) have started protest by launching strike for his release.

His history of disrespect to the FTO office started from November 26, 2001 when the Supreme Court Justice (retd) Saleem Akhtar passed an order to FTO to dispose of a complaint filed by a jeweler (Hakim Ali) in Faisalabad against the selection of his case for audit by the income tax authorities. He alleged that he had filed his return for assessment year 2000-2001 under the self assessment scheme. However, Saleem, then a deputy commissioner income tax (DCIT), had ousted his tax return from the purview of self assessment unjustifiably and subjected him to audit on the false pretext that he was understating his income and thereby evading due payment of tax by charging bogus expenses to the trading account.

 

The officer pitched up the jeweler’s income and subjected him to steep taxation. Irked by the brazen display of high handedness, the jeweler filed a complaint that, when investigated, fully established the officer’s guilt. The Ombudsman then recommended that the arbitrary and illegal assessment be vacated and disciplinary action be taken against the officer. Muhammad Saleem challenged the FTO’s recommendation for initiation of disciplinary proceedings by filing a representation before the President of Pakistan which was rejected and the FTO’s ruling upheld. He also filed a writ petition before the Lahore High Court on the same issue. That too was rejected. But disciplinary action against the officer Saleem is pending at FBR’s end without any logical lawful excuse.

 

In the very next year, another jeweler (Shafaqat Ali of Faisal Jewellers) in the same city received a rude shock when Saleem sought to extort a bribe from him. The jeweler refused and filed a complaint before the FTO who investigated the matter and recommended that disciplinary proceedings be initiated against the officer.

Once again Saleem filed a representation before the president who rejected the same. Incensed, he lodged a criminal complaint against the jeweler before the police authorities. On investigation, the complaint was found to be baseless and summarily dismissed.

 

Thereafter, the DCIT sought a compromise with the jeweler who responded positively and an agreement was reached between the two. Muhammad Saleem, however, soon backed out of the agreement and lodged criminal charges against the jeweler before a local magistrate when an advertisement appeared in the print media highlighting his corruption and highhandedness. Muhammad Saleem held the jeweler responsible for the advertisement and lodged a criminal complaint before a local magistrate and then, in an astounding turn of events, sought to try the jeweler himself in his tax office for the same offence and issued warrants for his arrest. This led to the filing of a petition against Muhammad Saleem by the jeweler before the Lahore High Court. The LHC stopped the officer in his tracks and struck down the arrest warrants (illegally and without jurisdiction issued by Muhammad Saleem personally).

 

Later on another case, the ombudsman found that Muhammad Saleem had tampered with the assessment record and manipulating the date on official documents had framed an income tax assessment for a tax period that was hit by expiry of time limitation.

 

The complaint filed by Saleem before the local judicial magistrate (Section 30) in 2002 in the Shafaqat Ali –Faisal Jeweler- case, lay unattended until the then chairman of the central board of revenue Riaz Malik took up implementation of the recommendation made by FTO for disciplinary action against the officer. When show cause notices were served on him, Saleem started something that was to have far reaching consequences. He filed a petition in the LHC alleging that by starting disciplinary proceedings against him during the pendency of the complaint filed before the local magistrate against Shafaqat Ali, the chairman CBR committed contempt of the magistrate before whom he had filed a criminal complaint against Shafaqat Ali for his defamation.

 

When the officer received a second disciplinary action notice from the chairman CBR, he cried himself hoarse that the chairman CBR and the member direct taxes had committed contempt of the LHC as the earlier petition was yet pending disposal when the chairman CBR restarted disciplinary proceedings. Served with contempt notices by the LHC, the chairman CBR and the member direct taxes were forced to tender apology before the LHC on 17.11.2006 and Muhammad Saleem basked in the glory of his legal coup. Disciplinary action against the officer Saleem is pending at FBR’s end without any logical lawful excuse.

 

Muhammad Saleem’s forced apology from Riaz Ahmad Malik and the member direct taxes Vakeel Khan traumatized the CBR and he exploited this weakness to the hilt. He resolved to stay put in Faisalabad and behaved as he thought fit. Keeping a loaded handgun in his office desk drawer, he did not shy of brandishing it whenever he felt threatened – which was quite often.

 

In 2009 the third FTO then in office, Dr Muhammad Shoaib Suddle, received a complaint from a small scale manufacturer/supplier of paper cones used in the textile industry (Asif Paper Tube/Asif Traders, Faisalabad). The complainant alleged that refund due to him in tax year 2008 amounting to Rs59,720 and arising due to excess deduction of tax at source was being denied arbitrarily when, as per law, the deducted tax was adjustable.

 

The FTO investigated the complaint and found the allegation to be correct. He accordingly recommended that due refund be issued. However, there was no response. Frustrated by the officer, the complainant again approached the FTO. Taking cognizance of the deliberate delay and obstruction in implementing his recommendation the FTO directed him to explain why action for contempt of the office of the FTO may not be taken against him. However, Saleem found it impossible to do the right thing. When issuance of due refund to the complainant was yet pending, he took it upon himself to start fresh assessment proceedings against the complainant and during the proceedings “discovered” that the complainant had fraudulently claimed credit for Rs5050 due to tax deducted in electricity bill also found to have been claimed by another person. Saleem promptly filed a criminal complaint against the complainant – before the local magistrate, knowing full well that such complaint could only be filed before a special judge (judicial officer not below the rank of sessions judge) appointed by FBR. Actually, Saleem anticipated action by the FTO and laid what he considered to be a legal trap for him. Rather than rendering explanation before the FTO, Saleem filed a contempt petition in the LHC alleging that the FTO and his adviser had shown contempt for the magistrate by initiating proceedings under the FTO Ordinance in a matter that was pending before the magistrate. He requested the High Court to take cognizance of the FTO’s and his adviser’s contempt of the magistrate.

 

The assessment made by Saleem was maintained by the commissioner (appeals) on appeal by the complainant. However, on appeal before the Appellate Tribunal Inland Revenue by the complainant, the order passed by the commissioner (appeals) was vacated and the assessment made by Saleem was annulled (with the remarks Saleem acted in mala fide manner having no knowledge of law). Another blow for Saleem was the admission, albeit belated, by the magistrate that he had no jurisdiction to hear criminal complaints against taxpayers on matters arising from their tax assessment record.

 

The contempt petition against the FTO and his Adviser was dismissed by the High Court on 31-05-2012 when Muhammad Saleem failed to appear for a hearing.

 

Muhammad Saleem tried to lay the Magistrate (section 30) trap for a third time in another case (Shahzadi Polypropylene). He failed miserably. The magistrate acknowledged once again that he had no jurisdiction.

 

In yet another case, (Naseer Traders), Saleem again framed assessment when refund due had not yet been settled. The first appellate authority, however, did not approve of his intervention and vacated his order and the Appellate Tribunal maintained that decision.

 

More than ten petitions in all were filed by Saleem before the LHC against the FTO and his adviser.

 

In one case alone, Asif Paper Tube/Asif Traders, five petitions were filed. Saleem’s game plan was to keep some petitions in circulation in the High Court at all times so as to thwart any move against him by the FTO. The other part of his plan was to use the office of the Section 30 magistrate to generate contempt petitions against the FTO and his advisor.

 

Saleem’s nefarious attempts to thwart the course of justice fell to the ground when the Chief Justice of the LHC took cognizance of the plethora of petitions filed by Saleem in his personal capacity. He also found out that Muhammad Saleem had attempted to mislead a bench of the High Court. Furious at the officer’s brashness, he served a contempt notice on him. Muhammad Saleem thus unwittingly got a dose of his own medicine. Having no credible defense, he resorted to begging for mercy. The chief justice let him go but not before passing a prohibitory order that stopped him from ever again filing a petition in the LHC in a personal capacity. By Nov 2012, all ten petitions filed by Saleem were thrown out by the chief justice of the LHC.

 

The elaborate maneuvers by Saleem to defeat the FTO’s cognizance of his outrageous illegal actions had thus come to naught.

 

He now had to answer the contempt notice issued by the FTO in the Asif Paper Tube case. On the 24th of December 2012, Muhammad Saleem begged pardon from the FTO and did not defend any of his actions.

 

The FTO explained to him his gross misconduct in using foul, scurrilous language in his petitions to ridicule the office of the FTO and the moves made to obstruct and thwart implementation of the FTO’s recommendations.

 

Saleem’s pleas for pardon were rejected. He was convicted and sent to jail for three months. He was also fined Rs50,000 or in lieu thereof to undergo an additional 15 days imprisonment.


Courtesy:  The News


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