HC orders eviction of street food vendors in Mumbai

In a significant order, the Bombay High Court on Friday directed the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai to evict the hawkers who prepare food on the streets, lanes and pavements in the city within two months.

The order was passed by the division bench of justices Abhay Oka and Revati Mohite-Dere on petitions filed by Vile Parle Kelvani Mandal and Bhagwanji Raiyani, alleging failure of the MCGM to act against illegal hawking.

The order is likely to impact thousands of street food stalls which prepare and sell snacks such as vada-pav, pav-bhaji as well as south Indian and Chinese fast-food fare. 

However, the court granted protection to street vendors who were carrying on the business as of May 1, 2014, and who were covered by the definition of "street vendor" in the Street Vendors Act.

This protection will remain in effect until a survey of street vending under the Act is carried out by the government and a certificate of hawking is given to them, the court said.

Those vendors who started business after May 1, 2014, shall be evicted. The action of eviction shall be initiated as early as possible, preferably within two months, the HC said.

The petitions allege that several illegal food stalls have come up on the Gulmohar Road in suburban Vile Parle which
houses several educational institutions, and these eateries create problems related to hygiene and parking, apart from becoming a nuisance.

The court also directed the traffic police to take action against indiscriminate parking by those who patronise these food stalls on Gulmohar road and nearby streets. 

Sufficient number of traffic police shall be deployed on the roads durings rush hours, it ruled. The judges also directed the principal secretary, Urban Development, to file an affidavit spelling out timeframe for formulating a scheme for street vendors, frame rules in accordance with Street Vendors Act and constitution of town vending committees in each local area.

The high court said that the state government had completely failed to implement the Street Vendors Act.

"From the photographs (in the petitions), we find substance in the submission that in many stalls, food is being cooked, and some of the stalls have been virtually converted into eateries," said the division bench.

"Therefore, there is merit in the contention that such illegal activities are leading to traffic congestion and are causing inconvenience to the local residents," the judges noted.

The court also asked the government to file an affidavit on a scheme for street vendors within one month. It also directed the MCGM to file an affidavit in six weeks setting out the maximum time it needs to prepare a plan for street vending from the date on which the town vending committee is constituted.

Both the state and the MCGM will have to file compliance reports by December 15.

According to the petitioners, on May 30, 2000, some of the stalls in the area were demolished, but they were allowed to come up again. 

The High Court referred to a Supreme Court judgement in 'Bombay Hawkers Union vs BMC' where the apex court did not permit cooking of food by vendors and allowed only sale of cooked food. It had also directed that no hawking shall be permissible within 100 m from educational institutions. 

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