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The News

Published Date: Dec 24, 2013

Experts, lawyers say defaulting MPS can be disqualified

Expressing
shock over the massive tax evasion and false declarations made by the
lawmakers, top legal and constitutional experts have warned that the
Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) could disqualify such
parliamentarians under Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution.

According
to a report, 47 percent of 1,070 lawmakers voted to the national and
provincial assemblies in the 2013 elections did not pay income tax
while 12 percent did not have a National Tax Number (NTN).

The
report mentioned dozens of MPs whose tax declarations were contradicted
by the FBR in their nomination papers."Under the existing law and the
Constitution of Pakistan, the members of national and provincial
assemblies can be disqualified if their false declaration is proven,"
said noted constitutional expert and former Supreme Court judge Justice
(retd) Wajihuddin Ahmed while talking to The News on Monday.

He
said the ECP could take action against such parliamentarians on the
complaints of individuals or institutions like the Federal Board of
Revenue (FBR).Justice (retd) Wajihuddin was of the view that the ECP
does not need new laws to take action against tax evaders and non-NTN
holders, as it is the responsibility of the commission to cooperate with
the national institutions in upholding the law.

Former
law minister S M Zafar said income tax authorities and election
tribunals could take action against MPs for tax evasion or false
declaration of taxes.He said the ECP could disqualify a candidate over
tax evasion only during the scrutiny of nomination papers.

Former
president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Justice (retd) Tariq
Mehmood said the current tax law was quite strict and the tax evading
lawmakers would not be able to escape from the long arm of law.

"Even
if these MPs do not have other taxable income, they are bound under the
law to submit their tax returns on their salaries. Failing to do that
will make them liable for legal action by tax authorities," he said
adding that those who imposed taxes on others must pay taxes first.

However,
Justice (retd) Tariq said under the law, a minimum of three-year
conviction was required for disqualification of legislators under
articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution. “Even if they are not
disqualified, they will face great embarrassment in front of the nation
if they are jailed for less than three years,” he added.

Former
secretary ECP Kanwar Dilshad said the commission cannot take sou moto
notice on the report but the law provides for strict action against tax
evading members of parliament.“Under Section 82 of the Representation of
People Act 1978, misrepresentation of facts is an offence that falls in
the category of corrupt practices,” he said. He said the
parliamentarians could be jailed for three years and disqualified if
found guilty of this offence.

Kanwar Dilshad said any
individual could file an application against any MP under Section 42 (A)
of the Representation of People Act 1978 for false declaration.He said
the Federal Tax Ombudsman should send a reference against these MPs to
the ECP, which should take action against all guilty parliamentarians.

It
is worth mentioning that each contesting candidate signs the following
undertaking in the nomination papers:"I…..s/o…..state that failure
to give detail regarding any item of this form shall render my
nomination to contest election invalid or if any information given
herein above is found incorrect at any time, my election shall stand
void ab initio."

According to the report, out of 680
members who declared their incomes in their nomination papers, 25
percent have been identified as showing lower earnings to the FBR for
tax deduction.