SC adjourns GIDC case till Feb 17

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday adjourned the hearing of Gas Infrastructure Development Cess (GIDC) case till February 17. A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Mushir Alam and comprising Justice Faisal Arab and Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, heard the case. During the course of proceedings, the officers of the Finance Division and the Accountant General Office appeared before the court. The court expressed annoyance over Accountant General and officers of the Finance Division for not submitting replies over judicial queries. Justice Faisal Arab asked how much did it cost to build a gas pipeline? Justice Mushir Alam asked how much cost occurred on the project till now.

The Joint Secretary Finance responded that only a small amount had been spent on the projects so far. Justice Mushir Alam asked how GIDCs’ money was included in tax collection. The joint secretary replied that GIDC amount was wrongly included in the tax collection and investigation was continuing in this regard. Justice Mansoor Ali Shah asked if the officers did not know the details then why they appeared before the court. The routine replies were being provided on the court inquiry, he added.

Justice Faisal Arab said that budget deficit occurred due to these reasons. The shopkeeper also knew what to take and what to give, he added. During the proceedings the court also hinted to stop recovery of further cess amount. Justice Mushir Alam said that if all applicants were willing, the court would stop the cess collection. The government could collect more funds after initiation of projects.

The counsels for the industries agreed to stop further collection of cess amount. The Additional Attorney General said that the government would object to stop collection of money as most of the industry had received this money from consumers. Advocate Makhdoom Ali Khan said that the government did not take Parliament into confidence over the use of GIDC amount for the last nine years. Following the court order, details of cess money were now being provided in Parliament, he added. He said that according to his information on the TAPI project, India, Turkmenistan and Iran did not take any money from the people. Justice Mansoor Ali Shah asked if the project did not start in ten years, would the money remain the same? No one knew when the project would begin, he added.

During the hearing, the CEO of Interstate Gas appeared in court and stated that work was pending because of sanctions on the Pak-Iran gas project. The Pakistan-Iran project would be completed within two years as soon as sanctions were removed, he added. He said that the TAPI project would be completed by 2023 and the project would cost a total of $ 10 billion. The court asked the Interstate Gas to submit details of the projects in writing.