ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court on Friday suspended the Municipal Corporation of Islamabad’s (MCI) notification regarding collection of fee from online food delivery service Foodpanda as publicity charges.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah issued the suspension order after preliminary hearing of a petition filed by Foodpanda through Advocate Khurram Hashmi. The chief justice also sought MCI’s reply to the petition in a fortnight.
Foodpanda has also challenged similar notifications issued by the metropolitan corporations and cantonments of Karachi and Lahore and Peshawar Development Authority and obtained stay orders from the Sindh High Court, Lahore High Court and Peshawar High Court against the collection of fee.
Foodpanda’s counsel Khurram Hashmi argued before the IHC that the MCI had asked the petitioner to regularise its advertisements i.e. logos placed on motorbikes and jackets of the motorcycle riders/delivery boys in lieu of Para 10 of the Islamabad (Control of Advertisement) Regulations, 1977, and to make the payment of fee for displaying publicity material.
He argued that the imposition of fee without providing any services in lieu thereof impinged upon the petitioner’s constitutional rights that were duly protected under constitutional provisions, adding that the local government agency/development authority could not impose the obligation of any tax, toll, fee or levy without entrustment of any appropriate legislative authority in terms of Article 140A of the Constitution.
Online food delivery firm has already obtained stay orders from Sindh, Lahore and Peshawar high courts against the levy
Giving a background of food service, the petition stated that the service was initially started in 2011 as an online food review platform and after one-and-a-half years transformed into an online food delivery service provider through its online platform, popularly known as Foodpanda, facilitating consumers to enjoy the food of their choice from a restaurant of their liking at their doorsteps.
It said that in today’s fast-moving world where e-commerce had tremendously emerged, the concept of online food ordering and consequent delivery at customers’ doorsteps had also become quite common, adding that an online selection of hundreds of food options acted as a natural extension to their connected day.
Moreover, the time-saving benefit outweighs the additional cost of planning, travel, shopping, preparation, cooking and cleaning. Further, the petition said, in the times of Covid-19, the e-commerce industry had substantially contributed towards the economy of Pakistan and kept the economic cycle running. The petition said that in 2020 various local governments and cantonments, on the pretext of advertising and marketing through the aforesaid riders, had started charging exorbitant, confiscatory and prohibitory fees, purportedly under the provisions of their respective laws.
According to the petition, charging any person or entity a fee for placing any logo, brand name or trademark over his/her/its private property (moveable and immoveable), which even otherwise is not used for marketing or advertising purposes (but solely for identification and security purposes), is illegal, void and ultra vires of the provisions of Articles 4, 5, 9, 10A, 18 and 27 of the Constitution.
The petition requested the high court to declare illegal the MCI notification for collection of fee.
Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2021