In a move that will provide relief to many mobile phone users, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) has temporarily halted the government’s plan to block SIM cards of individuals who have not filed their income tax returns. The court has ordered that no SIM cards should be blocked until at least May 27, 2024.

The decision comes after a petition was filed challenging the legality and fairness of the SIM blocking policy announced by the government earlier this year. The controversial plan aimed to force citizens to file their tax returns by threatening to cut off their mobile connections if they failed to do so by a certain deadline.

During the hearing on Monday, the IHC bench comprising Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb and Justice Baber Sattar Ibrahim expressed concerns over the lack of proper public awareness campaigns and the potential negative impact on a large segment of the population, including senior citizens and low-income individuals who may not have the means or understanding to file tax returns.

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The court questioned whether disconnecting people’s primary mode of communication aligned with the principles of a welfare state and emphasized the need for a more balanced approach that does not unduly inconvenience citizens.

For now, the IHC has ordered that no SIM cards should be blocked on the grounds of not filing income tax returns until May 27. This interim relief will allow the court to further deliberate on the matter and potentially ask the government to reconsider or revise its policy.

The case has sparked a broader debate around the use of such stringent measures for tax compliance and has highlighted the importance of striking a balance between enforcing tax laws and protecting the rights and well-being of citizens.

Both the government and taxpayer representatives are expected to present their arguments in the upcoming hearings, and the IHC’s final decision will provide clarity on the way forward for this contentious issue.

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