HC censures govt over illegal street vendors, says city is bursting at seams

“We can’t let the city go to the dogs….We are here to protect the rule of law,” said a bench of justices Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh
The court said it does not want another Lajpat Nagar or Nehru Place to come up and the authorities have to limit the number of vendors so that there is no crowding on the streets and residents have sufficient space to walk. (HT Archive)
The court said it does not want another Lajpat Nagar or Nehru Place to come up and the authorities have to limit the number of vendors so that there is no crowding on the streets and residents have sufficient space to walk. (HT Archive)
Published on Nov 18, 2021 12:40 AM IST
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ByRicha Banka, New Delhi

Taking a strict view of the increasing number of illegal street vendors in the national capital, the Delhi high court on Wednesday said it cannot “let the city to go to the dogs”.

“We can’t let the city go to the dogs….We are here to protect the rule of law,” a bench of justices Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh said, adding that the city is “bursting at the seams” currently.

“What is troubling us today and what is a cause of concern is the number of street vendors. Your population may be rising but the area in Delhi is constant. So how many vendors are you going to be permitting? What are the zones? It (the city) is bursting at the seams,” the bench said, while hearing a plea by the Chandni Chowk Sarv Vyapar Mandal, challenging the validity of Delhi Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Scheme, 2019, framed by the Delhi government.

The plea, filed through senior advocate Sanjeev Ralli, has sought to strike down various provisions of the scheme contending that it is arbitrary, discriminatory, and illegal.

The court said it does not want another Lajpat Nagar or Nehru Place to come up and the authorities have to limit the number of vendors so that there is no crowding on the streets and residents have sufficient space to walk.

“Please understand that for a place where there are 120-odd tehbazaari (hawking) right holders, there are about 4,000 (vendors). Where do people walk? We don’t want another Lajpat Nagar or Nehru Place,” the court said.

The court, while issuing notice to the authorities, directed them to file their replies within two weeks detailing the justification for the constitution of the current town vending committee (TVC) and also the background of NGO members who have been included in the TVC.

During the proceedings, senior advocate Rahul Mehra, appearing for the Delhi government, urged the court to not take any action for three months while assuring it that the work on the ground will be carried out.

To this, the court replied that it can’t grant leverage even for a single day.

“.. forget about three months, three months is too long, not even a single day... We have not said anything or passed any order staying actions of TVC. We are very clear, we can’t let the city go to the dogs. We are here to protect the rule of law. Rule of law does not mean you only look at one constituency and say that, “look their rights are there, they need to be protected”. Vendors have a right but no right is absolute,” the bench said.

Citing an example of Connaught Place, the court said despite being a “no hawking and vending” zone, the area is flooded with vendors.

“When you permit them, you permit them in such an unregulated manner that today that market has lost its character. People pay lakhs of rent per month. They say they made a mistake by abiding by the law as there are 10 vendors sitting outside their shops and customers cannot enter, because there is a problem of hygiene and law and order. The market has lost its character. You should see it from the shopkeepers’ perspective also,” the court said.

“Whenever you find a picture of Delhi, iconic buildings and iconic places, you either find CP or Qutub Minar. That’s how you depict Delhi. And very conveniently you don’t even think it necessary for having a representative of CP associations in the TVC. That is why we take your assurances with a pinch of salt.”

The matter will be next heard on December 8.

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Tuesday, November 30, 2021