Declaring hawking a fundamental right, the Supreme Court has asked the government to come out with a proper law by June 2011 to regulate hawkers’ rights, which often come into conflict with commuters’ rights to roads and streets. The court, however, said a hawker’s fundamental right to do business on a public street is subject to reasonable restrictions under Article 19(6) of the Constitution. “These two apparently conflicting rights must be harmonised and regulated.”
The Supreme Court was acting on petitions filed by Delhi hawkers challenging various aspects of vending schemes framed by the Capital’s civic agencies — the MCD and NDMC — on its directions.
Commenting on the oft-repeated argument that the rural poor migrate to cities and choke their roads, it said: “There is a section that, due to its ever increasing wealth, is buying any number of cars, scooters... No restriction has apparently been imposed by law on such purchase.”
Noting that the housing and urban poverty alleviation ministry has already drafted a Model Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill, 2009, the court said the appropriate government should take steps to translate the bill into law by June 30 next.
Welcoming the verdict, National Association of Street Vendors of India coordinator Arbind Singh said: “Parliament should enact a law for street vendors on the lines of NREGA as hawkers face problems due to varying interpretations of the National Policy on Urban Street Vendors and the schemes framed under it by municipal bodies, police and high courts. It should not be left to states to enact separate laws.”
But the court made it clear that till such a law is enacted, hawkers must go by the schemes framed by the municipal bodies and approved by the Supreme Court.