Court says to allow online delivery, but government taking its timeAuthorities like the traffic police say they are unaware of the court's order, e-commerce entrepreneurs complain.
Three days have passed since the Supreme Court ordered the government to unban online delivery services, but it appears the administration is yet to wake up to the fact, insiders said.
Nepal’s apex court issued an interim order on June 7 not to restrict e-commerce firms from making home delivery of essential goods during the lockdown, and online sellers have accused the government of disregarding the decree.
Sagar Dev Bhatta, president of the E-Business Association of Nepal, said the court ruling had not been enforced, and online businesses were still restricted from making deliveries, except for three hours daily from 6 to 9 am.
The Supreme Court said in its decision that e-commerce services have been an important medium for providing essential services during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Covid-19 Crisis Management Ordinance 2021 seeks to control only non-essential services, the court said, and ordered the government not to restrict e-commerce businesses until the final verdict is issued.
“The authorities concerned like the traffic police say that they are unaware of the court decision. This is a kind of contempt of court,” said Bhatta, one of the founders of online store Mero Kirana. “We have written to the chief district officer.”
Kali Prasad Parajuli, chief district officer of Kathmandu, told the Post that they had not received a formal notice from the Office of the Attorney General regarding the court order, and hence the rules regarding online delivery remain unchanged.
“We are waiting for the court paperwork. We have decided to act accordingly and are discussing the matter,” Parajuli said. “For now, online delivery is allowed until 9 am.”
E-commerce entrepreneurs have also met with the secretaries of the Finance and Home ministries. “We are doing our utmost to begin online delivery services immediately,” Bhatta added.
According to Bhatta, they have been informed that the new notice will be issued on June 15 with some changes in policy to facilitate online delivery.
Lino Ahlering, managing director of Daraz Nepal, said the delivery timing had not been changed despite the court order. “Our company is delivering till 9 am. Despite the court’s order, there is no clear instruction for the traffic police by the chief district officer.”
In April, a meeting of the Covid-19 Crisis Management Centre decided to allow the district administration to impose prohibitory orders if the number of active Covid cases exceeded a certain threshold.
The local administration can impose restrictions in municipalities and rural municipalities if the number of active cases goes over 200, in sub-metropolises if the number of active cases exceeds 500, and in metropolitan cities if the number of active cases exceeds 1,000.
Nepal has been under a lockdown since April 29, its second in as many years.
Ahlering said that it was difficult and challenging to deliver goods in just two and a half hours as per the strict prohibitory order. “As the court has ordered delivery of essentials only, the definition of ‘essential’ has created another confusion,” he said.
Online delivery companies should be allowed to deliver all kinds of goods by following health safety protocols, he said, adding that most Daraz home delivery boys had been vaccinated.
State-owned food trading companies—Food Management and Trading Company and Salt Trading Corporation—have been permitted to deliver groceries with a limited number of delivery vans to homes situated within the Ring Road and up to 2 km beyond it.
With internet shopping and home delivery growing steadily since last year’s lockdown, demand for online service has jumped this year because it has earned the people's trust, said e-retailers.
According to e-business entrepreneurs, there are fewer chances of spreading infections using home delivery, and this has been confirmed by international practices.