Putting a stop to illegal activities by hawkers across the state, the High Court Wednesday said hawking can only be permitted in designated zones. The court held that if hawking is allowed in non-hawking zones, like close to places of worship, railway stations, foot overbridges and educational institutions, it would lead to “chaos in all the cities”.
“We are therefore of the considered view that while considering the rights of hawkers to conduct their vending business on streets, we will have to balance the rights of pedestrians to walk on the footpaths and citizens to use roads for plying their vehicles,” observed a division bench of Justice B R Gavai and Justice M S Karnik.
The bench, in its 118-page judgment, referred to the September 29 stampede at Elphinstone Road railway station that claimed 23 lives and injured 37 others. “On account of the mad rush of passengers, there was a commotion on the overbridge, which led to the loss of 23 precious human lives. The presence of a large number of hawkers on the foot overbridge is said to be one of the major contributing factors in the mishap,” the court said.
Hawker associations, as well as Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam, had approached the court claiming that as per the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, municipal authorities cannot evict hawkers. According to them, the act and the HC orders protect all hawkers who have been carrying out business as on the date the law was enacted, on May 1, 2014.
“If the contention of the petitioners, that after coming into effect of the Act, now there are no non-hawking zones and they are permitted to hawk anywhere in the city and authorities should be issued mandamus not to come in the way of their so doing, is to be accepted, it will create a chaos in all the cities. If the argument is to be accepted, then there will be no regulations till the same are framed in accordance with the said act, the operation of which is still in a limbo,” said Justice Gavai.
Citing the apex court orders, the HC said: “Their Lordships of the apex court have clearly specified that total roads as hawking zones shall remain only 221. We are therefore of the considered view that in so far as area coming under the jurisdiction of the BMC is concerned, till new vending and non-vending zones are earmarked and notified by local authorities, in consultation with the duly constituted Town Vending Committees, hawking activities can be continued, only in areas identified as hawking zones, as approved by the apex court and, in no case, such activities can be permitted in non-hawking zones.”
According to the Supreme Court order, there should be no hawking within 100 m of any place of worship, holy shrine, educational institution and hospital and within 150 m of any municipal or other markets or any railway station. It has further been held that there should be no hawking on footbridges and overbridges. The bench added that outside places of worship, hawkers can be permitted to sell items required by devotees for offering to deities or for placing in the place of worship, like flowers, candles, coconuts and so on.
The petitioners argued that three years after the law was implemented, the state was yet to frame rules and form TVCs comprising hawkers’ representatives. The committee, besides regulating hawking, is required to conduct surveys of hawkers every five years.
Appearing for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), Senior Counsel Anil Sakhare said the civic body had constituted TVCs according to the 2009 policy, in compliance with apex court orders. Accepting a survey conducted by the BMC after May 1, 2014, the bench further directed, for those municipal corporations and councils where surveys have not been conducted yet, to carry out surveys in the same pattern as done by the BMC.
“In those corporations and councils where Town Vending Committees have not been formed, it would be appropriate to direct them (BMC) to constitute the same in accordance with the 2009 policy within six weeks and conduct surveys within three months thereafter,” the court directed.
The court further held as unsustainable a Government Resolution dated January 9 this year that directs for the committees to be constituted without there being a representation of street vendors.