ISLAMABAD: The Lahore High Court (LHC) Rawalpindi bench on Friday dismissed a petition filed against the establishment of a food street on the already congested Hospital Road in Rawalpindi.
Justice Jawad Hassan observed that sit-out cafes had become a global phenomenon and restaurants cannot be stopped from serving customers in outdoor dining unless they violated the Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs).
“Creative uses of street rows and sidewalks have been increased in different countries during the Covid-19,” observed the judge, adding “sit-out cafes have become widespread phenomenon throughout the world. The recent outbreak of Covid-19 has further added to its popularity and appeal because of the approved health advisory to maintain social distance as probable safety precaution against this Pandemic.”
The court order stated: “Six feet social distance criteria encouraged the culture of sit out cafes worldwide and increased its clientele rapidly. Maintaining Outdoor Dining Area in a clean and sanitary condition is the foremost requirement for a sit out café and its utility stands further elevated because of the fact that it would be easier to follow social distancing guidelines in sit out cafes in comparison to the indoor cafes.”
LHC says restaurants cannot be stopped from serving customers unless violating Covid-19 SOPs
The court observed that some international communities had limited vehicular access on one or two blocks of their downtown streets and only allow pedestrians and bicyclists to use them.
The All-Rawalpindi Restaurants Association (ARRA) welcomed the court verdict.
Chaudhry Mohammad Farooq, the ARRA president, said the judgment would help restaurants revive their business. According to him, the restaurants will strictly observe the SOPs in the light of LHC’s direction.
During the course of arguments, petitioner’s counsel Kashif Ali Malik maintained that a section of Hospital Road leading from Haider Road to Bank Road intersection had been blocked for general public and vehicular movement during peak hours in the evening causing grave hardship and inconvenience to the inhabitants of the area, people visiting Cantonment Hospital as well as commuters who visit or pass through the area.
Giving details of the vicinity of the food street, advocate Malik said the area in and around Rawalpindi Saddar, including Mall Road, Haider Road, Hospital Road, Murree Road and Bank Road, usually got too congested for vehicular movement during peak hours.
According to the petition, the site was a public road/street meant only for the collective use of the public and vehicular movement. Therefore, the same cannot be put to any other use let alone commercial. Under the law, no one has the right to stall, fence, launch a project and create obstruction or make encroachment of any kind on a public street.
However, counsel for the Rawalpindi Cantonment Board Waqarul Haq Shaikh objected to the maintainability of the petition on the ground that the petitioner had no locus standi [right to speak].
According to advocate Shaikh, the areas consisting of Bank Road, Adamjee and Haider Roads were the main business hub and were interconnected with other roads namely Station Road, Police Station Road, Saddar Road, Kashmir Road, Canning Road and Murree Road. Therefore, with the passage of time, a small food street consisting of small restaurants, ice cream parlours, juice corners, barbecue centres, etc., was established.
He argued that the board had never established a food street as claimed by the petitioner as there was no notification/order regarding establishment of a food street. A small portion of Saddar Road lying in between Bank Road and Haider Road has been declared as a pedestrian/walking street from sunset to midnight.
Published in Dawn, September 25th, 2021