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Hawkers cannot be allowed to choke streets: Court

The Delhi High Court has ruled that a Supreme Court-appointed committee was not empowered to stay the order of the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) on eviction of squatters and upheld the civic agency’s power to maintain streets and keep it free for movement.

 “Hawkers cannot be allowed to choke the streets leaving hardly any space for pedestrian or vehicular movement. It is the NDMC which will decide how to maintain the streets,” the court observed.

 Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw delivered the order Dec 23 after the NDMC, which serves a bulk of central Delhi areas, challenged the order of the apex court-appointed vending committee which restrained it from removing hawkers, squatters and vendors.

 The Supreme court had constituted the vending committee to regulate hawking, squatting and vending on streets. It comprises representatives of municipal authorities, traffic police, land owning agencies, traders, resident welfare associations and association of street Vendors.

 Justice Endlaw said the vending committee was only an administrative or recommendatory body tasked to identify vending sites and determine eligibility of hawkers.

 The vending committee was not entitled to adjudicate whether a person, who till now had not been found eligible under the policy for a vending site, be allowed to obstruct the street or whether the NDMC was entitled to remove him.

“The vending committee or the appellate authority are not courts. It is only the courts which can be said to be enjoying power to issue interim orders/directions,” the court said.

 Justice Endlaw said: “The observations in the orders of the Supreme Court that the said bodies were intended to provide a complete mechanism for redressal of all grievances of the hawkers,squatters and vendors cannot be read to be vesting the said bodies with the power of passing any interim orders.”

 The 2009 policy for vending sites defines vending committee as a body for protecting the livelihood of street vendors while, at the same time, imposing restrictions for ensuring free flow of traffic and addressing concerns relating to public health and hygiene.

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