IHC Bars Govt From Blocking Mobile Phone SIMs Of Non-Filers

IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq has issued a stay order till May 27.

IHC Bars Govt From Blocking Mobile Phone SIMs Of Non-Filers

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday halted the government's attempt to block non-filers' SIMs. 

IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq issued a stay order until May 27, as the court heard a plea filed today by a mobile phone company questioning the government's decision to block non-filers' SIM cards. 

The development came just days after the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and telecom companies decided to restrict non-filers' SIM cards as part of the government's efforts to combat tax fraud and increase revenue generation in the face of bleak economic indications. 

The FBR stated that telecom firms have decided to start manually disabling SIMs in small batches until their systems are fully automated.

The FBR stated that the first batch of 5,000 non-filers had been communicated to the telecom operators and that more batches would be forwarded to them on a daily basis. 

Meanwhile, the operators began sending messages to non-filers, informing them that their SIMs were being blocked. 

The FBR and telecom operators had been meeting to discuss the resulting standoff after the latter refused to enforce the former's order to block 500,000 SIM cards belonging to persons who are not on the active taxpayer list but are required to file an Income Tax Return for Tax Year 2023. 

During the hearing, the petitioner's lawyer, Salman Akram Raja, stated that the amendment to the law is contrary to Article 18 of the Constitution, which provides the freedom to do business. 

Raja stated that no legislation may be enacted that violates constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights. 

He informed the court that the government cannot exercise its authority to restrict people's mobile phone SIMs by amending the law. 

"Blocking more than 500,000 SIMs will result in a loss of Rs1 billion annually," the lawyer argued.