By Khalid Hussain-
The Supreme Court ordered all High Court Registries on Monday to send all their Gas Infrastructure Development Cess (GIDC) case lists for a joint hearing at the apex court. It also directed all counsels to submit their concise statements to avoid “unnecessary adjudication in their case”.
The decision followed a plea for the purpose by Attorney General Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Barristar Qasim Wadood. The three member Supreme Court bench also allowed individual case counsels to appear either at the principle seat or to appear via the video link to argue their cases. Led by Justice Mushir Alam, the bench is joined by Justices Faisal Arab and Mansoor Ali Khan.
Earlier when the hearing resumed, senior Advocate of the Supreme Court and a former Attorney General for Pakistan Makhdoom Ali Khan made intricate constitutional arguments via the video link on the legality of the GIDC. He representing a number of CNG station owners.
The federal government had requested to the Supreme Court on September 06to hear the pending GIDC cases out-of-turn. Attorney General Anwar Mansoor submitted a formal application to the court for the purpose on the instrucitons of Prime Minister Imran Khan.
The matter became a political controversy when the present government promulgated the GIDC (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019. The Ordinance offered a Rupees 210 billion financial amnesty to GIDC defaulters that included fertiliser firms, independent power producers, generation companies, K-Electric, the CNG sector and general industry.
The total amount stuck in the GIDC litigation from January 2012 to December 2018 had risen to Rupees 417 billion. GIDC issues have been pending since 2017 with over 300 decrees against the government in the Sindh High Court (SHC). While exercising civil suit jurisdiction in 2016, the SHC had declared the GIDC ultra vires (beyond the legal authority) of the Constitution but in May 2017, the PHC held that GIDC was intra vires (legal). Many aggrieved companies have approached the SC against the PHC order.
The GIDC Act was approved in December 2011 by the National Assembly imposing the cess on gas consumers –save domestic users—to develop infrastructure for a number of projects. These include the the Iran-Pakistan (IP) Pipeline Project, Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline project and the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Project. The cess was also to be used for price equalisation of imported alternative fuels including liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).
The apex court had earlier rejected a petition by the federal government seeking a review of the its 2014 verdict ordering refund of over Rupees 100 billion collected under the GIDC Act to the industrial consumers of gas from whom it was recovered. The GIDC law then in force had legalised recovery of cess from non-domestic consumers including industries. Later on the expiry of the GIDC ordinance, the National Assembly and Senate passed the GIDC Act, 2015 repealing the GIDC Act, 2011.
Hearing will resume next Tuesday.
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