New Delhi: Delhi High Court today reserved its order on pleas filed by hawkers alleging harassment by policemen and piling up of garbage by MCD in open space where vegetable vendors sit.
A bench of justices Pradeep Nandrajog and Jayant Nath has also reserved its order on a contempt plea filed for flouting the court`s earlier order asking the South Delhi Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) to immediately remove the garbage dumped at the Subzi Mandi area of Okhla here.
The court had also directed the Delhi Police to ensure hawkers` safety.
The bench during the hearing asked the hawkers to settle the issue among themselves, but later decided to pass an order saying "if it will not decide the matter, the issue will prolong".
It said that "it would pass its order after looking into the documents on record, including photographs, videos filed by the petitioner and the MCD and Police".
The court was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Delhi Shramik Sangathan (DSS) through its lawyer Indira Unninayar against the Delhi Police and MCD seeking to restore their rights as vendors in the area.
The petition was filed by around 130 hawkers of Harkesh Nagar Subzi Mandi Okhla Industrial Area Phase II who have formed an association -- DSS -- and said that police was harassing them to vacate the premises and demanding `hafta` (extortion money) where they have been hawking since past more than 20 years.
The petitioners alleged that MCD is piling up garbage in the surrounding area making their lives miserable.
Petitioners` counsel Indira urged that these poor hawkers were being forced to ply their trade in sub-human conditions.
"The scavenging or removal of garbage and filth was an obligation of MCD, but instead, it was illegally dumping garbage in the area. Such filthy conditions were absurd obstacles in the way of their occupation, when vending or hawking has been repeatedly upheld as a constitutional right in this country," the lawyer contended.
The NCT (Delhi) Special Provisions Act, operational from 2006 has been extended till 2014 and therefore the question of harassing or taking any action against these hawkers was not permissible, the petition had said.
"The Okhla police, instead of upholding the rule of law, has been extorting from the petitioners who are forced to pay extortion/protection money of Rs 500 per month.
"The petitioners are also disallowed from plying their trade for the full day, as the police whimsically restricts them from plying their trade for the few hours that they please. The police, is unlawfully allowing new hawkers after extracting bribes of Rs 5,000 followed up by a monthly rate of Rs 1,000 protection money," the lawyer had alleged.
The plea said that despite the court`s earlier order not to harass the hawkers, police and the MCD continue to torture them.
The court on January 16 had restrained Delhi Police from interfering with the 130 petitioners saying that their right to pursue street-vending was protected.
The lawyer had also contended that "MCD went ahead with the toilet construction despite the court orders".