LAHORE: The Lahore High Court has ruled that levy on display of promotional material by the National Highway Authority (NHA) is neither tax, nor a fee or licence fee.
Allowing a petition of an oil marketing company against the NHA, Justice Raheel Kamran Sheikh observes that according to the Constitution, no tax can be levied for the purpose of federation, except by or under the authority of an Act of parliament.
As per brief facts of the case, as stated in the petition, Attock Petroleum Limited, the petitioner, operates retail outlets of petroleum products at various locations throughout Pakistan.
The NHA assigned the task of collecting fee/tax on display of promotional material on the national highways to a private company being its contractor. The contractor issued notices to the petitioner for collection of rental charges for displaying promotional material on the GT Road.
In the instant case, the judge observes that nothing has been specified in the National Highway Act 1991 in terms of taxable event, persons upon whom the incidence of tax falls, the rate of tax and the value to be taxed in relation to display of promotional material on or along the national highways, motorways or strategic roads.
The judge further observes that neither any specific provision for the levy of fee on display of promotional material has been legislated in the Act, nor such fee is levied to meet an earmarked exigency spelt out therein.
The Act, therefore, does not expressly provide for the levy on display of promotional material in either of the forms, be it ‘fee-simpliciter’ or ‘Cess-fee’.
The judge rules that the impugned demand is, therefore, not a tax, fee or license fee by any stretch of imagination.
The judge also notes that undeniably the promotional material is being displayed by the petitioner on the property which is privately owned and does not fall within jurisdiction of the NHA.
Declaring the impugned notices illegal, Justice Sheikh observes that the petitioner may approach the NHA for refund of the amounts, if any, deposited with it towards the charge/fee on display of promotional material on private property, which refund shall be made expeditiously.
Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2022