The Delhi High Court on Monday directed the Delhi Police and NDMC to continue removing unauthorised hawkers selling goods in the Sarojini Nagar market while noting that the authorities have taken effective steps in this direction.“Substantial work has been done. We would like this momentum to continue,” a bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh said. After perusing the status reports filed by the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) and Delhi Police, the bench said they had done the work, “it is not that shopkeepers are not to be blamed. Almost every shopkeeper has encroached upon public land.”
“It appears that in pursuance to our orders, NDMC and police authorities have taken effective steps regarding removal of illegal squatters in Sarojini Nagar market. We would like to see further steps be taken in the matter… We direct NDMC and Delhi Police to continue to keep vigil and remove illegal squatters and ensure our orders are complied with,” it said.
The bench said it was the question of the mindset of people as they see whether the authorities are lenient or strict.“You have to send a message home that you will take strict action and then see the result. If we take back the contempt notices, things will go back to the same situation,” it said. The court had earlier issued contempt notice against officials of NDMC for not complying with its earlier orders on the removal of encroachment from the market, including illegal vendors and their goods.
The court asked the NDMC to mention in its next status report the steps taken by them for fencing Sarojini Nagar Market. It further asked the Delhi Police to indicate the aspect of procurement of instruments for a headcount of people in the market and also on the installation of CCTVs there.
The High Court was hearing a plea relating to illegal encroachments in Sarojini Nagar market and the presence of unauthorised vendors and squatters there. The petitioner’s counsel said the system of odd-even of the opening of shops is going on, so shopkeepers are not allowed to keep their shops open daily, however, these hawkers sit there every day and are squatting just outside the shops.
The High Court, in December last year, had said the state of affairs, be it Covid or non-Covid, was "frightening" as people were "flowing like a river" which could lead to stampede and death of hundreds. It had taken note of overcrowding in Sarojini Nagar market that had witnessed a bomb blast in the past.
The court had said whether there is Covid or not, people have to remain alert and made it clear that if there is any death because of COVID-19 infection or stampede in the Sarojini Nagar market, then the officials of the authorities concerned, NDMC and Delhi Police, will be personally held liable for it.
It had also asked the Delhi Police and Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) to work out a movement plan for the public in the market and asked the NDMC and other authorities to ensure there is no overcrowding. It had further directed the DDMA to make a visit to the market forthwith and assess the situation given the prevailing situation of the pandemic. The NDMC council had said they have been regularly removing encroachment and also illegal vendors but they again return and that they are also issuing challans and performing their duties.
With PTI inputs.