Mumbai: The 150-year old Bombay High Court is often considered to be one of the prime HCs in India, due to its history and the prestige of the institution itself, which has given at least eight Chief Justices to India. However, though the Bombay HC’s orders, which are often noteworthy in the country’s judicial fraternity, it seems the local authorities have failed ‘miserably’ to even make an attempt for implementing its orders.
This can be said so especially in respect of the two significant judgments delivered by the HC in the recent past pertaining to the footpaths of the city. Earlier this month, a division bench of Justice Bhushan Gavai and Justice Makarand Karnik delivered a detailed judgement prohibiting hawking in non-hawking zones.
The judges had even confined the hawking business within 100 meters periphery of temples, educational institutes, hospitals etc. The bench also imposed a rider on hawkers asking them to stay at least 150 meters away from municipal corporations, market places and railway stations. Another such important judgement was passed by a division bench headed by Justice Abhay Oka, who had prohibited digging up of footpaths for erecting pandals during festivals.
All this shows that the HC and its judges have time and again stressed upon the need for “encroachment-free” footpaths however, a mere visit to its vicinity would show, all the orders are falling on “deaf ears.” Especially in respect of hawkers, which one can see all around the HC building, selling books, electronic gadgets, clothes, cigarettes and the list goes on. Even as all this business is being carried out within a hop, skip and a jump distance from the HC building, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC’s) “confusion” is doing nothing but paving way for these hawkers to continue hawking unhindered.
Interestingly, despite the orders in place, the BMC is still in confusion as to whether hawking can be allowed in the HC periphery or not.
Explaining the confusion, Nidhi Chaudhary, Deputy Commissioner, (Special), BMC said areas for allowing hawking are not yet defined and it would be done once the Town Vending Committee (TVC) is constituted.
She said, “We are still unsure as to whether HC area is a hawking or non-hawking zone. So as of now I cannot comment on it and also the exercise of whether hawking can be allowed in an area is to be undertaken by the TVC. As of now, we do not have any TVC and its constitution is still in process.”
Chaudhary’s attention was drawn to the numerous book sellers, who have encroached upon the footpaths just outside the Mumbai University, the neighbouring building of the HC. This was informed to her since Justice Gavai in his orders on hawkers have clearly banned hawking within 100 meters of an educational institute.
To this, Chaudhary said, “It is a non-hawking zone but just like the HC has allowed sale of some essential products outside religious places, similar decision must be taken in context of educational institutes. If there are book vendors outside the university, I do not think it must be objectionable. Though all this is to be looked over by the TVC.”
“I have asked ward officers to visit and inspect the area since it is visited by lakhs of people from across the State, on a daily basis. Even, we think the HC should be accessible. We are looking into the angle as to whether to allow some essential product sellers to carry on their business in the 100-meter radar,” Chaudhary added.
Further, Chaudhary defended the civic body saying it is working in a phase wise manner, wherein clearing hawkers from railways is its “priority”. She said, “We have earmarked the 100 meters area outside all the railway stations in the city. This will follow with educational institutes and then health and then religious places.”