“We can’t let the city go to the dogs, we are here to protect the rule of law,” the Delhi High Court said on Wednesday, expressing concern over the rising number of street vendors, majority of them sitting illegally, in the national capital.
The high court said the area of Delhi is constant and “it is bursting at the seams”, while the population keeps on increasing and asked how many vendors the authorities are going to permit.
“What is troubling us today and what is a cause of concern for us is that what is the number of street vendors? Your population may keep on rising but the area Delhi has is a constant. So how many vendors are you going to be permitting? What are the zones? Where all they will be? It is bursting at the seams,” a bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh said.
The bench added, “Please understand for a place where there are 120 odd tehbazaari right holders, there are about 4000 (vendors). So it’s bursting. Where do people walk? We don’t want another Lajpat Nagar. We don’t want another Nehru Place. That exercise has to be... today what is the plan? What is the number?”
The court issued notices and sought responses of the Delhi government, North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NrDMC) and Town Vending Committee (TVC), North DMC Zone on plea by Chandni Chowk Sarv Vyapar Mandal seeking direction to strike down various provisions of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Scheme, 2019.
Senior advocate Sanjeev Ralli and lawyer Mohit Mudgal, representing the petitioner association, said the scheme is arbitrary, discriminatory, illegal and contrary to the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulations of Street Vending) Act, 2021 and Rules, 2017.
The court directed the authorities to file their replies within two weeks and said the Delhi government shall give justification for constitution of the current TVC for City-SP Zone and also the background of NGO members, who have been included in the TVC, as to the field in which they are working and the causes taken up by the NGOs.
It also called for relevant records of the authorities and listed the matter for further hearing on December 8.
When senior advocate Rahul Mehra urged the court to keep its hands away for three months and said things will be done, the bench shot back “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 Mr Mehra, 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.
It further said that the court has always been saying that it recognises vendors and hawkers as essential part of the economic system.
“But we are shocked... We are flooded with petitions by vendors,” it said.
The bench gave example of Connaught Place and said it is a no hawking and no vending zone but the vendors there are increasing day by day and when it a no hawking and no vending zone, why should they in the first place be permitted there?
“When you permit them, you permit them in such an unregulated way that today that market has lost its character. People pay lakhs of rent per month. They say they made a mistake by abiding law as not there are 10 vendors sitting outside shops and customers cannot enter the shop, 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,” it said.
When Mehra said why the court thinks that the government is not looking from the traders point of view, the bench said, “because proof of the pudding is in eating".
Mehra said that in next 60 days, they will have a solution to the problem and that it was pending for last 6 years but the situation remained the same.
The bench 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 court is seized of a batch of petitions challenging the validity of Street Vendors Act, its implementation, certain provisions of the scheme and other connected issues raised by various market associations and vendors and hawkers.