A blow to the civic administration of the city as the bench of Bombay High Court, on Wednesday, pulled up NMC for casual approach about the issue of illegal hawkers occupying Sitabuldi main road, delay in forming Town Vending Committee and non-declaration of hawkers’ zones and non-hawking zones.While hearing a petition filed by Sitabuldi shopkeepers against registration of offence against them after a scuffle over alleged illegal marking by hawkers, a division bench headed by Senior Administrative Judge Justice Sunil Shukre and Justice Avinash Gharote made it clear that if any charge-sheet had been filed (in Crime No 390 of 2020, Police Station, Sitabuldi), same would be subject to the result of this petition. The petition claimed that they were unnecessarily slapped with a crime when they legitimately protested against illegal occupation of the Sitabuldi main road by unauthorized vendors while City Police made it clear that under the garb of protests, nobody had the right to violate law.
During the course of hearing, NMC counsel sought more time to file a reply about formation of Town Vending Committee. But, attempt to distance NMC from the matter invited sharp rebuke from the bench, which slammed NMC for taking this important matter casually. During the last hearing, the High Court had hoped that the civic body and City Police would definitely follow the Apex Court ruling against illegal squatters and hawkers while expecting total compliance of the ruling in market areas like Sitabuldi main road. Petitioners pointed out that the City Police, in its reply, did not even refer to Maharashtra Ekta Hawkers Union Judgement and on the contrary blamed the shopkeepers for the scuffle. Instead of controlling the illegal activities of hawkers and evicting them, the police authorities registered offences against shopkeepers demanding action against illegal vendors, squatters and encroachers who tried to occupy public street in most illegal manner, petitioners claimed. City Police, while tracing the events leading to volatile situation on Sitabuldi main road, also annexed a letter addressed to NMC asking it to clarify the status of Sitabuldi main road and whether it was declared as a no hawking zone on December 29, 2016.
The police authorities also sought details about division of Sitabuldi main road and demarcation of 425 sq mtr as road and 198 sq mtr as hawkers’ zone. The High Court had sought compliance report from the police authorities about not allowing illegal hawkers and implementation of Apex Court ruling against no hawking within 100 meters from any place of worship, holy shrine, educational institutions and hospitals or within 150 meters from any municipal or other markets or from any railway station. It has also been directed that no hawking would be permitted on footbridges and over-bridges. The petitioners requested to direct NMC and City Police to deploy sufficient police force on Sitabuldi main road to ensure that there were no encroachers upon the footpath and that no unauthorized vendors were permitted to cause any obstruction to free flow of traffic by placing goods and merchandise on roads.