Delhi can't be allowed to be opened for anyone who wishes to come and start hawking activity as it may lead to a 'jungle raj' in the city, the Delhi High Court observed Monday while stressing on the need for proper implementation of the Street Vendors Act to have an organised activity of vending.
The high court directed the local authorities, including the municipal corporations, to initiate the process of preparing the statutory street vending plan under the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act.
"The steps taken in this regard be placed before the court on the next date of hearing," a bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Amit Bansal said while listing the matter for further hearing on November 18.
The court was hearing a plea by New Delhi Traders Association, which represents shop owners and operators in the Connaught Place area, that is, Rajiv Chowk and Indira Chowk, seeking directions to the authorities to ensure that illegal hawking and squatting or vending activities in ''No Hawking'' and ''No Vending'' areas of Connaught Place and Connaught Circus stop permanently.
The petitioner, represented through senior advocate Sanjeev Ralli, sought that the authorities be directed to ensure the areas are kept free from encroachment by illegal hawkers and vendors.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (New Delhi district), SHO of Connaught Place Police Station, and New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) Chairperson were present in court as per the court's directions. The court had asked for their presence as it felt "anguished" that despite the Connaught Place area declared a no-hawking and no-vending zone, hawking activities were continuing and no action was being taken.
"We can't allow the city to be open to all, that anyone can come and sit and start hawking. This way it will lead to a jungle raj in the whole city, which cannot be allowed so kindly implement our orders," the bench said.
The court, on October 11, had directed the removal of illegal encroachers and vendors from the Connaught Place area and directed the authorities to ensure that they don't return.
The court was informed by senior advocate Rahul Mehra, representing the Delhi Police, that drives have been carried out by the NDMC and police for removal of illegal encroachers and five FIRs have been registered, and that goods have also been confiscated.
He said the court's order was fully complied with by the authorities.
The NDMC's counsel said illegal hawkers and vendors were removed but this drive needs to be carried out daily.
Advocate Kamlesh Kumar Mishra, representing a woman who claimed to be vending in the area since the 1980s, said the court was hearing everyone except the vendors.
The bench, however, said it was wrong to say such things.
The counsel claimed that when traders approach the court, everyone asks for the removal of vendors but when hawkers move court, they are asked to approach the town vending committee (TVC).
Regarding the Regal Cinema building, Ralli informed the court that earlier no action was taken against illegal hawkers sitting there, however, when he informed the authorities that action has to be taken there also, a removal drive was carried on November 6 and today morning and as of now, the area is shown to be clean.
The court observed that it was conscious of the fact that vendors also have fundamental rights but no fundamental right is absolute and its intention was not to deprive anyone of their rights.
The bench said its concern was that it has to see and balance it with the rights of other citizens.
"You need to implement the Act properly. There is no street vending plan. The way the constitution of the Town Vending Committee (TVC) has been done is actually shocking. We are dealing with the NDMC area and without CP area, it does not have its character and meaning," the bench said.
The court said the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Scheme, 2019 and the Act are good but the problem is implementation.
"We want to ensure all wings of administration, be it MCD or Delhi government, shall implement the Act in its letter and spirit. Then we will have a city of organized activity of vending," it said.
The bench said, "We don't want it to become a menace" and that pick-pocketing activities shall not increase because of too much of the crowd in markets.
The court said hawking activity is happening all over the world and even foreigners come here and buy goods from fleece markets.
"We also go and buy handicrafts and books and other items from these vendors," the bench said, adding, "we don't want to take away anyone''s fundamental right but no fundamental right is absolute".
It asked the authorities to consult and take suggestions from planners and come out with the vending plan and added that with proper planning, the CP area could be enriched and the experience of city-goers could also be enhanced.
The high court had earlier said the authorities' failure to discharge their duty to remove hawkers and vendors from no vending zone "very severely and adversely" impacts citizens' rights to life, a healthy and clean environment.
The New Delhi Traders Association, also represented through advocate Mohit Mudgal, had drawn the court's attention to the scheme framed by the NDMC as per which CP area has been declared as no hawking and no vending zone and the Supreme Court's order approving the scheme.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)