Jan 30

Najam Sethi sues Transparency International Pakistan

Posted on Friday, January 30, 2015 in Legal notice

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Of Lincoln’s Inn, Barrister-at-Law
LL.M. King’s College London
LL.B. (Hons.) London
Accredited Mediator by CEDR, London
Master Trainer by CEDR, London
Advocate of the High Courts of Pakistan

1 Turner Road, Lahore, Pakistan
Phones +92 – 42 – 372 31795
+92 – 42 – 372 36174
Fax +92 – 42 – 373 62626
Cells 0333 420 0935
0323 420 0935
[email protected]

27 January 2015

Mr. Sohail Muzaffar
Transparency International – Pakistan
5-C, 2nd Floor
Phase VII
Defence Housing Authority

Legal Notice

  1. This legal notice is issued on the express instructions of our Client Mr. Najam Aziz Sethi (the “Client”) who is the most reputed independent journalist in Pakistan acknowledged worldwide and is the only recipient of three top international awards for journalistic courage and professionalism in a decade in South Asia.  Our Client is among the first journalists in Pakistan to have received ‘Hilal-e-Pakistan’ by the Government of Pakistan in year 2011.  We issue this legal notice, for and on behalf of our Client, in response to the false, ill founded, unsubstantiated and malicious remarks and insinuations made in your letter dated 16 January 2015 addressed to The Honourable President of Pakistan (the “Publication”) and circulated to many including Chairman NAB, Federal Tax Ombudsman, Registrar of Supreme Court of Pakistan and electronic media.  Nevertheless copy of the Publication is attached herewith as Annex A.
  2. You have long been spearheading a campaign of vilification of our Client.  The last time you were checked by our Client, through a legal Notice dated 07 July 2014 issued under our hand, you tried taking refuge behind the stereotype of discharging professional obligations and the so called distinction between ‘criticism and defamation’.  Although our Client was convinced that you were not discharging your professional obligations while writing letter to Chairman FBR Tariq Bajwa that was later circulated as a news item / article in Business Recorder on 03 July 2014 titled “Recovery of evaded tax from Sethi: TI-Pakistan Praises FBR Chairman”.  Equally fictitious was your assertion of doing criticism and not defamation, yet our Client showed restraint and did not take the matter to its necessary conclusion.  However, your mudslinging is going on.
  3. The Publication is, as usual, irresponsible, unsubstantiated and libellous in nature constituting defamation.  Despite being a senior man tasked with nabbing corruption, as your claim in the Publication, not only you appeared novice in the field law but even the basic facts forming basis of the Publication were found alarmingly incorrect.  You were absolutely ill informed about legal provisions and their interplay.  Nonetheless you masterly used the incorrect and distorted information and cunningly drafted the Publication maligning our Client, whereas the matter pertained not to Najam Sethi but separate and distinct assesses, with distinct National Tax Numbers, filing their own Income Tax Returns on Regular basis, who are legally responsible for their own deeds.  Yet you wilfully chose to mention our Client’s name in a bid to lower his reputation and undermine his credibility.  The Publication was so ill founded that it had a belittling effect on you and Transparency International Pakistan.  The Publication is maliciously motivated so is vehemently denied.
  4. Since the Publication mala fidely alleges tax evasion by our Client, his wife, Mrs. Maimanat Mohsin (“Mrs. Sethi”) and children so it would not be out of place to mention here that Mr. & Mrs. Sethi are amongst the largest tax payers of Pakistan.  They pay more tax than any other husband-wife team of journalists in Pakistan and probably more than dozens of members of Parliament.  As a matter of fact, they jointly paid personal income tax of Rs.46.3 million (Rupees four Crores and Sixty Three lacs only) from year 2009 to 2013.  In addition, their publishing companies also paid tax of Rs.19.9 million (approximately rupees 2 Crores only) in the last five years.  All their assets have duly been declared to FBR.
  5. Yet trumped-up allegations were levelled by former Federal Tax Ombudsman Mr. Shoaib Suddle (“Mr. Suddle”) using ITOs for victimising our Client, who severely criticized Mr. Suddle for his biased, partial and partisan role during the proceedings and/or inquiry of one man commission constituted by the Honourable Supreme Court to probe into the allegations levelled on Arsalan Iftikhar by Malik Riaz Hussain.  Mr. Suddle, who took strong exception to it and got annoyed.  In a bid to avenge himself, he abused his office and started a campaign to malign our Client and his family.
  6. Mr. Suddle, while abusing his official position as Federal Tax Ombudsman, pressurised the Deputy Commissioner Inland Revenue (DCIR), Audit Circle Zone-II to issue illegal notices to our Client regarding property of his wife situated in the USA.  Mrs. Sethi is separate tax assessee, with distinct National Tax Number, filing her Income Tax Returns on Regular basis, who purchased that property and got it registered on her name along with her husband with a special power of attorney being given to their son to handle the affairs of property.  The property was shown in her wealth statement along with the source of investment within prescribed time.
  7. Under the influence of Mr. Suddle, the DCIR amended the assessment of our Client illegally on his whims rather than law by assessing the property in his hands that investment for property was made by our Client in spite of explanation and evidence to contrary that it was made by Mrs. Sethi.
  8. Being aggrieved by the treatment of DCIR, our Client preferred an appeal before Commissioner Appeals under Section 127 of Income Tax Ordinance 2001.  While the appeal was still pending, the department initiated recovery proceedings unlawfully.  So our Client moved an application to CIR praying that either recovery proceedings be stayed or case be decided expeditiously.  No matter how reasonable the request was, the CIR refused to entertain either of the prayers vide order No.2239 dated 16 July 2013 manifestly under the influence of Mr. Suddle.
  9. Nevertheless our Client fought his case by filing an application before Appellate Tribunal Inland Revenue, where the department was restrained to take coercive measures against our Client vide order No. M.A. (Stay) No. 829/LB/2013 dated 22 July 2013.
  10. Meanwhile an application was sent by our Client to Chairman FBR and Member Legal for change of jurisdiction to any other Commissioner Appeal.  No specific Commissioner was suggested.  Rather it was requested that case may be transferred to any Commissioner whose workload is not heavy so that our Client’s case may be disposed of on earlier basis.
  11. Our Client’s case was decided by CIR (Appeals-I) on points of law in his favour.  The CIR had not at any stage been instrumental in transferring appeal to his Zone as it was transferred by FBR itself.  The Commissioner (Appeals) did not yield to any pressure from and decided the case purely on points of law.
  12. Thereafter the tax department issued notices to Mrs. Sethi and their two children, which were challenged before the Federal Tax Ombudsman on basis of mal administration on 16.07.2013.  In the meanwhile the second appeal by the Department was filed against the decision of Commissioner Appeals before Appellate Tribunal Inland Revenue was decided in favour of our Client and the very basis of issuing notices Mrs. Sethi and their two children stood cancelled.  Yet the FTO gave its findings against Mrs. Sethi and their two children on 18.04.2014, who filed the Review Petition No.17/2014 that too did not find favour with him and was dismissed on 06.11.2014.
  13. Mrs. Sethi thereafter filed a representation before the President of Pakistan under section 14(1) of the Federal Ombudsman Institutional Reforms Act 2013.
  14. Now if you recall the Publication, you would notice that all the references, quotations and citations you gave were of Federal Tax Ombudsman Ordinance 2000 and not Federal Ombudsman Institutional Reforms Act 2013 under which the representation was filed and admitted by the office of the President.  How lamentable!!!!!!!
  15. For your information the Federal Ombudsman Institutional Reforms Act 2013, under which representation before the President of Islamic Republic of Pakistan was made, was published in the Gazette of Pakistan on 20 March 2013, Section 13 deals with the powers given to the Federal Tax Ombudsman to review his orders, which is reproduced;Section 13 Review:  (1) The Ombudsman shall have the power to review any findings, recommendations, order or decision on a review petition made by an aggrieved party within thirty days of the findings, recommendations, order or decision.
  16. Section 14 of the said Act allows any person or party aggrieved by a decision, order, findings or recommendations of an Ombudsman may file representation to the President within thirty days of the decision, order, findings or recommendations , which is reproduced;Section 14. Representation:  (1) Any person or party aggrieved by a decision, order, findings or recommendations of an Ombudsman may file representation to the President within thirty days of the decision, order, findings or recommendations.

    (4) The representation shall be processed in the office of the President by a person who had been or is qualified to be a judge of the Supreme Court or has been Wafaqi Mohtasib or Federal Tax Ombudsman.
  17. It is evident from the in the above given law that the Mrs. Sethi and their Children utilized their legal rights in approaching the Honourable President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan under section 14 of the said Act for relief against the illegal order passed by the FTO.  Needless to reiterate that your contention regarding the representation being time barred is also false and based on ignorance of facts and law.  A watch dog and so unaware, what a waste of resource!!!!  A senior man like you getting his basic facts wrong and raising his whole argument thereon, what a shame!!!!!!!
  18. It is important to emphasise that Representation by the Office of the President was accepted on merits and all the allegations levelled in the Publication are absolutely preposterous, absurd, ridiculous and libellous in character.  Each of these allegations mentioned above has been shown to be false, baseless and bogus by reference to facts and record.
  19. Last time you alleged “tax evasion” against our Client, whereas the case of “tax evasion” had not yet been decided by the tribunal.  As a matter of law, till the decision is announced no “tax evasion” can be established.  Later our Client won that legal battle.  Now our Client maintains that the above was not a mistake but was done with a design.  You intentionally chose to damage the reputation of our Client by wrongly maligning his family members.  The very subject of the Publication reflects your pre-conceived nefarious notions where you, the self proclaimed judge, termed the Representations ‘illegal’.  Then instead of referring parties by their names, you chose to cite name of our Client.  Thus it is libellous Publication maliciously motivated against our Client to injure and lower him in the estimation of right and fair-minded people of society, for which you are solely liable.
  20. Your action apart from damaging the credibility of our Client and his family members, also defames and ridicules the highest Honouarble Office of the Head of the State of Pakistan nationally and internationally.  Your Publication, which has proven to be utterly false and ill founded, did cast so serious aspersions on the integrity of the Office of the President and the senior officers, qualified to be a judge of the Supreme Court or has been Wafaqi Mohtasib or Federal Tax Ombudsman, working therein that Presidential Office had to issue a Press Release to clarify its position.  The amount of uncalled for damage you caused to the Highest Office in Pakistan cannot be measured.
  21. Be that as it may, the office of the Honourable President of Pakistan while hearing representations under Federal Ombudsman Institutional Reforms Act 2013 is performing a quasi judicial function.  The Publication has the effect of influencing the President in discharge of its quasi judicial functions and amounts to contempt.  The very depth of the legal arguments and use of extensive case law clearly reflects that you became a party, an instrument of FTO, and were trying to advance FTO’s arguments in garb of your Publication to get favourable order from the last forum.
  22. Had it being a bon fide effort to ensure the rule and supremacy of law, you would not have circulated the Publication, but ostensibly the purpose was to influence the last forum of appeal and conduct a pre-emptive media trail of our Client to thwart the course of justice so that the Presidency, like FBR officials and FTO in past, is pressurised not to give any relief as per law.  This was a concentrated effort to marginalise our Client.
  23. So our Client has taken serious notice of the utterly false and scandalous Publication that render a distorted and fictitious travesty of facts about our Client with the malicious purpose to defame and disgrace him.  The foregoing Publication was repeated without obtaining any confirmation or verification from any relevant or affected quarters including our Client or Mrs. Sethi.  The falsity of the allegations made in the Publication, its vicious slant against our Client and repetition of such allegations to the point of revulsion reveals a concerted effort under a malicious plan to malign our Client unjustly, without cause and with the sole purpose of defaming him.
  24. The wrongs committed through Publication by yourself, for which according to law you are directly responsible, constitute both civil as well as criminal wrongs.  The act of intentionally communicating false allegations that are derogatory and defamatory in effect constitutes the offence of defamation, which has in fact been committed by the Publication in respect of our Client.  The baseless allegations made in the Publication have injured his reputation, lowered him in the eyes of others and exposed him to ridicule and dislike.  For causing such harm, injury and pain, our Client has a right to be fully compensated by you as the originator of the Publication.  Although a financial award can never adequately compensate the injury and loss of reputation suffered by our Client on account of the defamatory Publication, however, you are hereby notified that our Client claims an amount of Rs.50/- Billion as compensation to partly alleviate his loss and injury caused solely by the illegal actions of yourself.
  25. Without prejudice to the foregoing, in order to acquit yourself of guilt and responsibility for the foregoing illegal actions constituting defamation, libel and slander, you are hereby granted an opportunity by this legal notice to publish a contradiction and an apology for the malicious, fallacious and scandalous Publication herein challenged with the same prominence under headlines with which such Publication had been carried.  Such a contradiction and apology must appear within seven days of the receipt of the instant legal notice failing which our Client may commence, simultaneously or successively, legal actions for civil and criminal remedies against yourself and other persons involved in the commission of such wrongs.
  26. In this case, take this as a notice for initiation of action for defamation under section 8 of the Defamation Ordinance 2002.  Please take note that the contents of the Publication constitute admissions and can be used as evidence against you.

Yours truly,

Usman G. Rashid

An original of this legal notice is retained in our chambers for future reference and reliance.

Copy to:

  1. Najam Sethi
  2. Chairman NAB
  3. Federal Tax Ombudsman
  4. Registrar of Supreme Court of Pakistan

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Suddle should not be head of Arsalaan Commission, AKB, 3rd Sept 2012

Suddle exposed, 19th Nov 2012

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