20 Jun 2023 6:02 AM GMT
In a PIL filed by a practising Advocate, concerning the blockage and encroachment of a public road by unauthorised vendors and shopkeepers, the Calcutta High Court pulled up the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) and Kolkata Police for being unable to evict the unauthorised encroachers and trespassers masquerading as hawkers on governmental property.A division bench of Chief Justice...
In a PIL filed by a practising Advocate, concerning the blockage and encroachment of a public road by unauthorised vendors and shopkeepers, the Calcutta High Court pulled up the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) and Kolkata Police for being unable to evict the unauthorised encroachers and trespassers masquerading as hawkers on governmental property.
A division bench of Chief Justice Sivagnaman and Justice Ajay Kumar Gupta noted that the road in question was a two-lane road which contained a hospital, and an office of the West Bengal Transport Corporation at either end. The petitioners complained that on the aforesaid stretch of road an illegal market place by the name of ‘Mullick Bazar’ had cropped up, consisting of unauthorised vendors who blocked all thoroughfare for passing traffic throughout the day.
Justice Sivagnaman took exception to the fact that West Bengal was one of only a few states that had not formed an interim “hawking committee” for the identification of street vendors and hawkers under the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014 (“2014 Act”).
According to him, this has resulted in the KMC rewarding encroachers, since those with pucca shops, having complied with all the paperwork and after payment of all taxes, still have the front of their shops encroached by the hawkers.
Justice Sivagnaman observed that if the State had formed an interim committee headed by a retired High Court judge, then it would be able to classify the hawkers according to their classifications as laid down in the 2014 Act, making it easier to segregate them.
The Court even took note of a report filed by the Officer-in-charge Park Street Police Station, Kolkata, detailing the business carried out by the vendors in Mullick Bazar and observed that these vendors could not be classified as hawkers, since such a term is used to denote those carrying out business by selling fruit, vegetables, or any other item that a person may require to purchase on a day-to-day basis.
The Chief Justice noted “[they may be] classified as vendors but the legally accurate term to refer to them is actually of rank encroachers and trespassers of government property.”
With these observations, the Court directed the KMC to issue notice on the illegal shop-owners of Mullick Bazar and give them ten days to remove their encroachments, failing which the KMC and Kolkata Police were authorised to do so departmentally. Such notice would need to be given through Public Announcements and pamphlets in order to ensure all the vendors were aware of needing to remove their encroachments within the specified period.
Finally, the court directed that if it is found that there are indeed genuine hawkers, then they may be relocated to previously designated hawking zones, and that the Kolkata Police would be needed to extend their assistance to KMC in process of removing the encroachments.
The KMC was directed to file an Action Taken Report, and the case was listed for further hearing on the 17th of July 2023.
Case Title: FAIZAN MD ZAFAR VS STATE OF WEST BENGAL AND ORS. WPA(P)/264/2023
Coram: Chief Justice Sivagnaman and Justice Ajay Kumar Gupta