The Punjab and Haryana High Court Thursday gave a deadline of four weeks to Chandigarh Administration and Chandigarh Municipal Corporation for removal and relocation of registered vendors from no-vending zones including Sector 17 and Ward 01 (Sectors 1-6). The high court also directed the authorities to take immediate steps for removal of unregistered vendors from across the city.
The order was passed during the hearing of a bunch of petitions filed by Sector 17, Sector 22 traders, Sector 15 residents and a number of vendors from different areas seeking different reliefs from the court. The hearing lasted for nearly two hours before the division bench of Chief Justice Ravi Shanker Jha and Justice Rajiv Sharma in a jam-packed courtroom.
UT Senior Standing Counsel Pankaj Jain, who represented the Corporation, informed the court that there were nearly 22,000 vendors in the city but only 9,356 vendors were found eligible for registration during the survey conducted by the Town Vending Committee under Street Vendors Act, 2014. There are 44 vending zones in the city with 5034 vending sites, the court was told. On Thursday, the authorities sought modification of previous orders where they had given an undertaking to maintain status quo with regard to registered vendors in Sector 17 till their relocation.
While allowing the request, the court strongly put down a request from Jain for eight weeks time for relocation and asked the authorities to clear Sector 17 of the registered vendors within four weeks since it has been declared as a no-vending zone. On hearing that there are 641 street vendors at Sector 17, the bench appeared surprised and sought to know how many shops are there. About 200, said many members from the Bar.
Senior Advocate Puneet Bali, who represented Business Promotion Council of Sector 17, argued that there can be no vendors in Sector 17 since it has already been declared a no-vending zone and submitted the traders who have shops in Sector 17 pay a rent of Rs 10-12 lakh per month, their GST runs into crores, pay property tax and other taxes as against those who are squatting there illegally. Despite an order for removal of illegal vendors, Bali added, the Sector 22 market is back to square one.
“How can this happen without connivance (of authorities). If I do one building bylaw violation, I get a notice for resumption within 72 hours,” submitted Bali, adding then no tax should be taken from traders if the hawkers are allowed to be continued at Sector 17.
Questioning the counsels representing the vendors, the court asked whether there is any document declaring Sector 17 as a vending zone and whether they have been provided any licenses by the civic body.
While the vendors side submitted there was no procedure for license previously, the court observed there has to be some document as there is an entire chapter even in the local municipal laws for hawkers.
The counsels representing the vendors told the court that the scheme for them is limited only to those who are residents of Chandigarh and contended that the administration has decided Sector 17 as a no-vending zone without following the parameters. However, the argument was rejected by the court saying the heritage status of Sector 17 is an important factor.