Sindh govt stalls process of rideshare regularisation

Summary for amending laws to tax, regulate online services pending with CM

Safdar Rizvi March 07, 2019
The summary in its recommendations requests the chief minister to make amendments in at least 11 sections of the Motor Vehicles Ordinance. PHOTO: REUTERS

KARACHI: The Sindh government appears to have stopped work to regularise ridesharing services such as Uber and Careem, while efforts to control and monitor taxi and ridesharing services using private vehicles have also ceased.

Sources suggested that a transport department summary, proposing amendments in the Provincial Motor Vehicle Ordinance to regularise ridesharing services, appears to have been buried in the files at Chief Minister House.

The recommendation was made by Sindh Transport Minister Qadir Shah on December 20, 2018. The summary had also proposed commercialisation of private vehicles registered with Uber and Careem.

The summary mentions that Careem is a private limited company registered in the British Virgin Islands. Since starting its operations in Karachi, the company has also contacted the authorities for route permits and fitness certificates for 500 vehicles. However, all such vehicles are held by individual owners.

On the other hand, Uber BV is registered as a Netherlands company. Uber had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Transport and Mass Transit Department on August 25, 2016.

The summary states Uber was given permits and fitness certificates for five different routes for five different vehicles in 2016. The permits for the five vehicles are valid until December 19, 2019. However, Uber drivers also use 514 other vehicles, the documents say.

Both companies started operations from Karachi before expanding to other cities, but neither the Motor Vehicles Ordinance, 1965, nor Motor Vehicle Rules, 1969 include language that relates to online transport services. For this reason, transport authorities and law enforcement agencies have been facing difficulties trying to regulate online services, while traditional taxi services have complained that the lack of regulation allows for unfair competition.

According to the summary, the labour, transport, industries and commerce departments of Sindh in 2002 exempted the Radio Cab Service from affixing commercial number plates on its vehicles. In order to give special permission for the exemption, the provincial government used Rule 4 of the Motor Vehicles Rules 1969, after which a 10% additional motor vehicle tax was levied on the company’s vehicles. The revenue from the tax was paid into the motor registration wing.

The summary further states that authorities in Islamabad allowed operations of the two companies to continue by exempting them from the Motor Vehicle Rules for six months in 2018. However, the administration in Islamabad did not interpret the 1969 ordinance as having the same applicability in its jurisdiction as it did in the four provinces. The summary in its recommendations requests the chief minister to make amendments in at least 11 sections of the Motor Vehicles Ordinance and include the word ‘online’ so that Uber and Careem come under the legal radar.

These include sections pertaining to definitions, certificates of fitness of transport vehicles, transport vehicles not to be used or driven without route permits, online dispatch platform competency, power to make rules, duty to produce license and certificate of registration, driving while intoxicated, using vehicles without permits, and summary disposal of cases.

CM House Spokesman Rasheed Channa said the provincial assembly is still legislating on the matter and that no summary relating to the issue is available at the CM House. He claimed that the chief minister does not keep any summary pending for more than two days.

Generally, he said, summaries are accepted and rejected within a couple of days. However, he added, it may be possible that the summary sent in by the transport department has been sent to the law department for review.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 7th, 2019.

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