Updated: December 10, 2021 12:11:30 pm
Hearing a plea by 25 street vendors that the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation had seized their carts following objections from councillors to the sale of non-vegetarian items, the Gujarat High Court Thursday came down heavily on the AMC and instructed it to consider the cases “as expeditiously as possible” if approached by the petitioners within 24 hours for release of their goods.
During the hearing, Justice Biren Vaishnav asked: “What hurts the municipal corporation?”
Addressing the government counsel, the court said: “What is your problem? You don’t like non-veg food, that is your lookout. How can you decide what I eat outside? Tomorrow you will decide what I should eat outside the house? Call the corporation commissioner and ask him what he is doing. Tomorrow they will say I should not have sugarcane juice because it causes diabetes? Or coffee (because it) is bad for health?”
The court was responding to submissions from the petitioners’ counsel, Ronith Joy, that their carts were seized without any official order and because of adverse positions taken by civic bodies in Vadodara, Surat, Bhavnagar, Junagadh and Ahmedabad — and remarks last month from the Rajkot Mayor that carts selling non-vegetarian food hurt religious sentiments.
Apart from the state, the government counsel was representing the Additional Chief Secretary of the Urban Housing and Urban Development Department, who was also named as a respondent in the petition.
After it was taken up in the first session, the matter was posted for further hearing in the second half, with the court instructing the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation’s standing counsel, Satyam Chhaya, to appear before it.
Advocate Chhaya submitted that the petition has been filed “under some misconception” and that “there is no drive to remove all non-vegetarian (carts)”. Chhaya submitted, on taking instruction from the AMC, that the reason for removal was “encroachment on the road, which is a hindrance to public traffic or absolute blockage of pedestrians”.
Justice Vaishnav, however, inquired if the encroachment removal was being undertaken under the guise of targeting non-vegetarian item sellers.
Following Chhaya’s submission, Justice Vaishnav remarked: “Under the guise of implementing something…For example, let’s be very honest, around the Vastrapur lake, if there were hawkers selling eggs and omelette (and) overnight you decide because the party in power decides we don’t want to eat eggs, we want to stop them…you will pick them up and take them away?…why are you doing that?…Ask your corporation commissioner to remain present here…how do you dare to indiscriminately pick up people like this?”
Chhaya denied that this was the case and referred to photos of blocked footpaths attached to the petition copy. Justice Vaishnav responded: “If there are encroachments, this has to go….but don’t just confiscate because today morning someone makes a statement that ‘from tomorrow I don’t want egg eateries around me’.”
Passing an order while recording Chhaya’s detailed submission, the court noted: “Mr Chhaya states that in case the petitioners approach the corporation within 24 hours for releasing their goods and the materials, based on the policy and in accordance with law, their cases shall be considered as expeditiously as possible.”
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