While adjudicating over a plea seeking cancellation of provincial government’s notification relating to increase in taxes on mines and mineral royalty, prospecting license (PL) and mining lease (ML) fees, the Balochistan High Court (BHC) has directed secretary mines department to address the concerns of petitioners under the law till September 29.
All Pakistan Mines and Mineral Association (APMMA) urged the BHC to take judicial review of notification which the Balochistan government has issued to increase taxes of mines and mineral royalty, renewal fee and licensing fee terming the increase as illicit.
Appearing on behalf of the Association before a two-member bench of the Chief Justice Naeem Akhtar Afghan and Abdul Hameed Baloch in the matter, Advocate Muhammad Ibrahim Umer Lehri apprised the bench that in result of notification there is a lot of difference in the rates of royalties, rents and other fees.
The petitioners have apprised the court that after issuance of the notification in March 3, 2020 prospecting License (PL) fees has been enhanced form Rs40,000 to Rs300,000 whereas Mining Lease (ML) fees has been enhanced from Rs50,000 to Rs10,00,000. Likewise the Mining renewal fees has been enhanced from Rs30,000 to Rs800,000.
Terming the notification relating to enhanced rates in the matter as malafide intention of the provincial government the petitioners alleged that the action was meant to deprive the local people of the province from earning their livelihoods and compelling them to leave the mining and minerals activities. They also claimed that as a result of such notification local people of the province were being deprived from taking benefits of foreign investment in the mining sector of Balochistan. They also claimed that the notification was not admissible in any manner under constitutional provisions.
The Chief Justice Naeem Akhtar Afghan citied the court’s earlier order of January 01, 2021 in the matter which encapsulated, “ The petitioners are aggrieved from the notifications of March 3, 2020 and July 15,2020 pursuant to which, the government has increased/revised the rates of royalties, the rates of renewal fee and rates of the rescue & welfare of laborers, on minerals. According to them, the increase in the rates is hundreds and thousands times as compared to the previous ones, which are illogical and abnormal.”
The order stated that provincial chief law officer, Secretary Mines and Mineral Development, DG and Chief Inspector Mines and Mineral Department stated that he provincial government has increased the amount pursuant to amendments in the Mines & Mineral Act 1923 and the Regulations of Mines and Oil Fields and Mineral Development (Government Control) Act,1948.
The court was apprised that the provincial government already has taken up the matter to reconsider the rates, therefore, has suspended the notification of March 03,2020. The Secretary added, “The government has decided to hire the services of tax consultant /expert in the mining areas for the purpose of determining fair increase of rates of royalties, taxation fees, keeping each and every aspect”.
It has been stated in the order that petitioners have contended that some of the minerals are exportable, wherein the mines owners are competing with the exporters of other regional countries of different amount as royalties, taxes etc, adding in case of abnormal increase, they will not compete their competitors, which will not only cause loss to the mines owners, but will also deprive the government from foreign currency. They also suggested that while determining the rates, the rates of taxes, fees, royalties and rent, fixed by other countries of the region should also be taken into consideration.
The petitioners have urged the court to direct Secretary Mines and Minerals to dispose of all the pending appeals at the earliest in addition to suggestion that if the government consider establishment of export processing zone for all exportable minerals, it will increase the income of the mines owners in the shape of foreign currency as well as creating employment opportunities.
Addressing the secretary of mines, the chief justice asked him to expedite disposal of appeals of petitioners and turn up before the court with a report on September 29.
The writer heads a leading news wire service ‘The Law Today Pakistan’ commonly known as TLTP. He has a special focus on news relating to superior courts adjudication, access to right of information, civil, political, social and economic rights under the approach that existing cyber regime realization ensures procedural fairness in administrative law. He can be reached at email@example.com