Roads free of impediments a fundamental right: SC

SC has ruled that commuters have a fundamental right to use the roads without any impediment and asked the government to put in place by June 2011 a suitable law to regulate the activities of street hawkers/vendors in Delhi.

Last Updated: Oct 19, 2010, 22:08 PM IST

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has ruled that
commuters have a fundamental right to use the roads without
any impediment and asked the government to put in place by
June 2011 a suitable law to regulate the activities of street
hawkers/vendors in the national capital.

A Bench of Justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly, however,
said it equally recognised the fundamental right of street
vendors/hawkers, to earn their livelihood but the same should
be subjected to reasonable restrictions.
The apex court also noted that the burgeoning population
has resulted in rapid urbanisation but there seems to be no
restriction placed on people purchasing "any number of cars,
three wheelers and scooters."

"This court is giving this direction in exercise of its
jurisdiction to protect the fundamental right of the citizens.
The hawkers and squatters` or vendors` right to carry on
hawking has been recognised as a fundamental right under
Article 19(1) (g) of the Constitution.

"At the same time, the right of the commuters to move
freely and use the roads without any impediment is also a
fundamental right under Article 9(1)(d). These two apparently
conflicting rights must be harmonised and regulated by
subjecting them to reasonable restrictions only under a
law," Justice Ganguly, writing the judgement, said.

The apex court said a suitable law on the issue was
required as ad hoc policy measures lacking statutory backing
cannot serve the purpose.
"The fundamental right of the hawkers, just because they
are poor and unorganised, cannot be left in a state of limbo
nor can it be left to be decided by the varying standards of a
scheme which changes from time to time under orders of this
court," the Bench said.

The apex court passed the judgement while dealing with
a batch of applications moved by vendors/hawkers challenging
the denial of permission to carry out their trade by MCD
and NDMC in the national capital.

The Bench referred to the Bill "Model Street Vendors
(Protection of livelihood and Regulation of Street
Vending)Bill, 2009 introduced by the Centre in Parliament but
which is yet to become a law.

It said there is no law as such in the national capital
on the issue and yet policy decisions on vending/hawking
activities are being regulated and carried out at the orders
of the court, which it said cannot be an alternative to a
statutory law.

The Bench said that in the absence of proper statutory
framework, courts cannot possibly control the ever-increasing
population and migration of people to metros in search of
their employment.

"Whatever, power this court may have had, it possibly
cannot, in the absence of a proper statutory framework,
control the ever-increasing population of this country.
Similarly, this court cannot control the influx of people to
different metro cities and towns in search of livelihood in
the background of the huge unemployment problem of this
country.

"While there unemployment on one hand, on the other hand
there is a section of our people, that having regard to its
ever increasing wealth and financial strength, is buying any
number of cars, scooters and three wheelers. No restriction
has apparently been imposed by any law on such purchase of
cars, three wheelers, scooters and cycles. There is very
little scope for expanding the narrowing road spaces in the
metropolitan cities and towns in India," the Bench said
while stressing the need for a law to regulate hawking.

The apex court said since the government had already
drafted the Bills it would be appropriate if the same was
enacted into a law.

"However, before 30 June, 2011, the appropriate
government is to enact a law on the basis of the Bill
mentioned above or on the basis of amendment thereof so that
hawkers may precisely know the contours of their rights," the
court said in its direction.

PTI