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Ahsan tells NA body: Govt may announce budget or mini-budget through ordinance – Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance was informed, Wednesday, that there are serious apprehensions that the government may bring federal budget or mini-budget through promulgation of an Ordinance as done in case of Tax Laws (Second Amendment) Ordinance, 2021 having huge revenue impact.

This was stated by PML-N Secretary-General Ahsan Iqbal at the National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance, here on Wednesday at the Parliament House.

Ahsan Iqbal stated that if this Bill is rejected, the government has imposed taxes on the general public for 120 days and the amount collected would not be refunded to the taxpayers.

Iqbal stated that the Tax Laws (Second Amendment) Ordinance, 2021 has amended fiscal statutes for enhancing tax liabilities of taxpayers, reducing tax benefits and substantially shifting the fiscal policy at the federal level.

Referring to his letter written to the speaker National Assembly, Iqbal stated that the present government has promulgated 50 Ordinances bypassing the Parliament including 30 Ordinances were issued last year.

While an ordinance is a temporary legislation, its consequences have permanent effects on the rights and liabilities of taxpayers and citizens, as is envisaged under clause (c) of Article 264 of the Constitution, he said.

Promulgation of an ordinance, as a matter of course, is a violation of the core values enshrined in the Constitution, the principles of representative democracy, parliamentary form of government, and separation of powers.

The power to promulgate ordinance, being a legacy of colonial era, has been retained only for emergency situations and should only be used sparingly.

He stated that the requirements must be met for the promulgation of an ordinance and for it to be constitutionally valid.

The courts of Pakistan, have on multiple occasions, examined the constitutionality of ordinances on the touchstone of these requirements provided in Article 89 of the Constitution.

In the present instance, the Ordinance has been promulgated without any circumstances necessitating immediate action. In this regard, it is important to note that the 28th Session of the National Assembly of Pakistan had concluded on February 04, 2021 – only seven days prior to the promulgation of the Ordinance on February 11, 2021.

Subsequently, the 29th Session of the National Assembly commenced on the February 19, 2021. By amending taxing statutes in the interim period of 15 days, the Federal Government has by-passed the normal method of legislation as provided in Article 73 of the Constitution. In the absence of any circumstances that required legislation to take effect within the period between the 28th and 29th Sessions of the National Assembly, legislation under Article 89 cannot be constitutionally valid, he said.

The power to promulgate ordinances, as envisaged under Article 89 of the Constitution, is a remnant of the Indian subcontinent’s colonial past.

The promulgation of the Ordinance is, therefore, not only in violation of the Constitutional requirements set out in Article 89 of the Constitution, but also offends the very ethos of the Constitution.

According to the scheme of separation of powers set out in the Constitution, the legislative function falls within the domain of the legislative branch. Particularly with respect to fiscal legislation, the Constitution, under Article 73, provides for enhanced role of the National Assembly.

As per Article 73 of the Constitution, legislation covered under the definition of “Money Bill” is not required to be voted upon by the Senate, before receiving President’s assent.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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