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‘If tomorrow some life is lost in fire, who will be responsible’, Delhi HC pulls up SDMC on illegal street vending

The high court said that SDMC was not following up on its own statement on moving the Supreme Court about the 95 street vendors who have interim orders in their favour for hawking at the Nehru Place. The court also warned SDMC against using court orders to increase the license fee.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
November 11, 2021 10:50:51 am
On Wednesday, the court warned SDMC against using court orders to increase the license fee. (Express Photo by Abhinav Saha)

Observing that commercial places like Nehru Place have become slums now, Delhi High Court on Wednesday said that the officers of South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) are not even bothered to read the court orders and that police officials, despite being deployed to act against unauthorised vendors, are not being guided by the corporation.

“There is something more than what meets the eye and that is what the policeman is also saying ‘what do I do? I have deployed the force and I don’t know what is to be done’ because SDMC is not playing the role of the leaders,” said the division bench of Justice Manmohan and Justice Navin Chawla.

Pulling up SDMC for not following up on its own statement on moving the Supreme Court about the 95 street vendors who have interim orders in their favour for hawking at the Nehru Place, the court said that the officers have done nothing for the last four weeks. It also noted that vendors have to follow the tehbazari conditions in the meantime.

“How far is the Supreme Court from here? How long do you take to move an application? Your officers have to realise the urgency of the situation. If tomorrow in the fire some life is lost, who will be responsible? Just because your officer could not send one letter from one table to the other, some life will be lost,” said the court.

The high court initiated a suo motu case on August 13 after a fire incident took place in a building at Nehru Place. On October 7, the bench directed the authorities to earmark a lane for emergency services so that the fire brigade and ambulance can reach Nehru Place at the earliest without any hindrance, and ensure that no illegal vendors hawk in and around it.

On Wednesday, the court warned SDMC against using court orders to increase the license fee. “Don’t use our court orders to increase some rates. Don’t use us. We will come down on you with a ton of bricks. Don’t spoil our good name. Don’t say we are being strict and tough, therefore the rates need to go higher, that should not happen. Some officer will lose his job,” it added.

The court also questioned SDMC for not disclosing that vendors were keeping their goods at Nehru place even after working hours. “Was this not your job to disclose? I don’t know why they pay these officers. If we have to do their duties, then we will do it….then don’t pay them. Our October 7 order has not been implemented at all,” it said further.

Meanwhile, the division bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Jasmeet Singh, in a separate matter related to Chandni Chowk, said that there was no “political will” to act against illegal hawkers and directed North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) to immediately start the process for preparing a plan under the Street Vendors Act in consultation with experts.

“Why are we wasting our time and trying to set it in order when everybody is out to scuttle the efforts,” observed the bench, adding that the vending needs to be properly regulated so that the vendors can earn their living and at the same time it is convenient for the people to buy goods and services.

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