By Our Reporter
SHILLONG: In a historic decision that would finally end the problem of hawker encroachment in the city, the High Court of Meghalaya has ordered removal of roadside vendors saying the common interest of around 6 lakh population in Shillong cannot be compromised or hampered.
During the final hearing on Thursday, counsel for the petitioner HL Shangreiso submitted that there are two sets of hawkers – one sitting on the verandah of shop and the other sitting on footpaths. The first category of vendors should not be disturbed till an alternative place is arranged.
Another counsel for the petitioner, K. Paul, impleaded Meghalaya and Greater Shillong Progressive Hawkers and Street Vendors and Others as one of the parties and submitted that before removing those hawkers from public footpaths, the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014 should be followed.
While considering the difficulties and keeping in mind the livelihood of the poor people the Court had passed an order whereby this Court specifically made it clear that till disposal of this writ petition, no eviction drive would follow with immediate effect.
The petitioners were also directed not to block the main path and to keep the area clean.
However, after the perusal of the joint report filed by SP and DC, the Court found that the order has been completely violated and the footpaths in the city have been captured by the hawkers.
Later, the court decided to constitute a larger committee to study the actual situation and identify any alternate land, in order to accommodate the street hawkers and also suggests additional measures.
The committee on Thursday submitted a report before the Court and while going through the report, it appeared that the hawker business has become a menace and nuisance to the common people and has affected the cleanliness of Shillong city, though history speaks that Shillong was one of the cleanest city.
The committee has also identified certain alternative places which can be declared as hawker zones like he open space available with the Meghalaya Transport Corporation, the ground floor of the Meghalaya Urban Development Authority and the parking centre opposite State Bank of India.
“After considering the facts and circumstances of the case and after seeing the report, I feel that this cannot continue further. The CEO, Shillong Municipal Board, informed this Court that the number of hawkers in the city is approximately 1500, though initially it was 350, but after passing the stay order dated 09-12-2015 the number is found to be increasing day by day,” the order said.
The Court was of the view that the common interest of the general public in Shillong which is around six lakhs cannot be compromised or hampered and the public footpaths are made for free movement of the pedestrian and also for their safety and the metallic roads are meant for movement of vehicles.
“We all know that Shillong is already congested with vehicles and it was difficult even for the administration to regulate the same. Further with the capturing of the public footpath and metallic roads by the hawkers, common people are now faced with a more difficult situation. It is worth mentioning here that Shillong roads are very small and having an area of approximately 64.36 square kilometres only,” the order said.
The Court further added that from one family only one person is entitled for hawker business subject to their financial condition and if they really do not have any means of survival, then only they could be allowed to take up the hawking business.
According to Court, the CEO of Shillong Municipal Board will maintain a proper register and issue licenses for one year and thereafter to renew the same from time to time if the petitioners deserves. But before issuing any license, he will have to take the detailed financial status of the persons from the Superintendent of Police. Genuine Petitioners should not be harassed while issuing license by the civic board.
However, it was also directed that the persons who apply should have a genuine case and they should not be harassed in any manner. Regarding the fee structure, that is to be decided by the CEO, Shillong Municipal Board. Petitioners are to take note that getting license for hawking business will not give them title over the land and will not claim any interest thereon.
The State government was also asked to make an endeavour to implement ‘The Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014’ and the Chief Secretary, has been asked to look into the matter as early as possible. 14.
In addition, the Chief Secretary, and the Deputy Commissioner, East Khasi Hills, was also directed to make a sincere effort to select the place as identified by the committee which is submitted in the report or any other place for the hawker zone within one month from the date of this order.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Commissioner East Khasi Hills District has informed that in compliance with the Judgment and Order of the High Court, the District Administration, East Khasi Hills District and the Office of the Chief Executive Officer, Shillong Municipal Board, shall depute Magistrates, Police and Officials to oversee that footpaths and main roads are free from hawking business.
It was advised that hawkers shall immediately vacate the footpaths and main roads, failing which legal proceedings shall be initiated.