MUMBAI: The State and BMC are not serious about implementing rules and even orders of the Supreme Court to curb the menace of unauthorized hawkers in Mumbai which has reached “alarming proportions’’ said the Bombay High Court directing the police chief and the civic body to file affidavits on steps taken to clamp down on unlicensed street vendors.
The HC directed “authorities to earmark the most congested areas or streets where complaints of illegal hawking or street vending emanate, implement the orders of the Supreme Court for at least a month.’’
The HC said that the authorities’ inaction indirectly encourages “lawlessness”.Such illegalities compromise the rights and liberties of the citizenry, who complain and eventually become victims of brutal force,’’ said the division bench of Justices M S Sonak and Kamal Khata in a detailed order made available on Tuesday. The HC said the state and BMC “miserably failed’’ to act against unlawful hawking and the public can’t be made to wait endlessly for the “intolerable situation’’ to end.
Significantly the HC said, “Authorities need to check the illegalities and not look out for the identities of complainants, as they are often targeted and victimised by the wrongdoers. The authorities must remember that in such matters, the message is more important than the messenger.’’
Referring to the 2014 Act to regulate hawking, HC said not implementing laws is “worse’’ than not enacting them as it “breeds contempt for such laws.’’
The HC passed a slew of directions to the Mumbai police commissioner and the BMC. The police chief must file an affidavit by 15th July 2024 on steps taken in the past two years from June 1, 2022, to May 31, 2024, to keep streets and by-lanes free of encroachment and remove illegal hawkers from non-hawking zones and status of FIRs filed against unlicensed hawkers. The BMC must also file affidavits to state on oath the steps taken to restrain and remove illegal vendors that dot the city.
The BMC must also inform if it can make an online portal or a mobile app to report complaints against illegal hawking and must “survey and identify all lanes and bylanes where hawking and street vending are being carried out within a specified timeline’’.
The order was in a suo motu (on its own) public interest litigation (PIL) to deal with and monitor State, police and civic action following various complaints of the risk that hawkers’ post to the maximum city.
A Counsel pointed out how roads and footpaths are cleared of encroachments during VIP movements. Even potholes are filled in overnight.
The HC said, “…It makes us wonder whether it is not the means but the will to enforce the law that is lacking. Do not the law-abiding citizens with whose money these VIPs function deserve the same treatment? Isn’t it their right to insist that laws are obeyed and, if not voluntarily obeyed, enforced by the executive arm?’’ The bench stressed how “Justice must not only be done but be seen to be done for the citizens.’’ The Courts cannot be mere spectators but must also ensure the implementation of their orders to uphold the Constitution and the law, the Judges emphasized.
The HC noted there is no way that anyone, including public members, can easily distinguish
The HC directions to the Police chief:

  • File affidavit on steps taken to remove illegal hawkers between June 1, 2022 to May 31, 2024
  • Steps taken to keep streets encroachment-free
  • Action taken and status of FIRs against illegal vendors in the last two years
  • Steps taken to build a database and identify the hawkers both licensed or unlicensed in Mumbai; State to inform if such database is feasible to make

Directions to BMC

  • Spell out an action plan to remove illegal hawkers
  • The steps in the past two years to remove unauthorized hawkers and stop such hawking
  • Steps to ensure licensed hawkers operate in 1 mtr by 1 mtr areas on extreme sides of a road so as not to block access to authorized shops and residences or pedestrians.

HC directed its registry to make some Hawkers’ Unions a party to the petition as the vendors are an important stakeholder to the concerns raised in the PIL
Judge speak
Street vendors have “virtually taken over the street lanes and bylanes. There is no place for people to walk on the footpaths. There is the problem of haphazard parking. The pedestrians are thus forced to navigate between the unauthorized hawkers and the haphazardly parked vehicles, to commute. The monsoons and the failing drainage or sewage infrastructure compound this problem even further. Merely because the members of the public are tolerant or possibly fed up with complaining anymore to the civic authorities does not reduce the magnitude of this problem or their immense sufferings– Justices M S Sonak and Kamal Khata