Bombay High Court Restricts Hawking to Designated Zones Only

The court order comes amid a clash between workers of the Congress and the MNS over the issue of hawkers’ eviction.

3 min read
Image of a street vendor in Mumbai.

Amid clashes between workers of the Congress and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) over the issue of hawkers’ eviction, the Bombay High Court restricted hawking to designated zones only, while banning the activity on foot-and rail-over-bridges and within 150 metres of railway stations, reported PTI.

A division bench of Justices B R Gavai and M S Karnik refused to accept contentions made in a bunch of petitions filed by city hawkers that, according to the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, the municipal authorities cannot evict them.

‘Hawkers Contributed to Elphinstone Railway Station Stampede’

The petitions claimed that after the Act came into effect they are permitted to set up shops anywhere and the municipal bodies cannot evict them as there are now no ‘non-hawking zones. The court, however, opined that if these contentions were to be accepted it would create chaos in all cities.

The bench in its 118-page judgement referred to the 29 September stampede on the Elphinstone Road railway station foot-over-bridge that resulted in the death of 23 people. The court said, as reported by PTI:

On account of the mad rush of the passengers, there was commotion on the bridge, which led to loss of 23 precious human lives. The presence of a large number of hawkers on the foot-over-bridge is said to be one of the major contributing factors in the mishap.  

Rights of Hawkers vs Rights of Pedestrians

The court said:

Hawking would be permitted within 100 metres from any place of worship, holy shrine, educational institutions and hospitals, and within 150 metres from any municipal or other markets or from any railway stations. 

No hawking would be permitted on foot bridges and overbridges also, the court added. For places of worship, the bench said hawkers can be permitted to sell only items required by devotees as offerings such as flowers, candles, coconuts and so on.

"We are faced with a situation to balance the rights of the hawkers to do vending business to earn their livelihood on one hand, and rights of the citizens to use the footpaths and roads without causing any obstruction and also ensure their security," the court said, as per a PTI report.

The bench observed that until vending and non-vending zones are notified by the authorities in accordance with the Act, "hawking activity can be continued only in areas identified as hawking zones, as approved by the Supreme Court, and in no case, such activity can be permitted in non-hawking zones."

‘Footpaths and Pavements are Public Property’

The bench also noted that footpaths and pavements are public properties intended to serve general public.

"They are not laid for private use, and their use for private purpose frustrates the very object for which they are carved out from portions of the public roads," the court said.

The court also declared a Government Resolution issued on 9 January, which directed the creation of town vending-committees without representation of street vendors as “unsustainable”.

"This defeats the very purpose of the Act which emphasises on participation of representatives of street vendors at all important stages," the court observed.

"The said government resolution which provides for doing away with the said mandatory requirement would not be sustainable."

(With PTI inputs)

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