Observing that hawkers have a fundamental right to carry on their business, the Supreme Court has asked the Delhi Government to enact a law to regulate their trade keeping in mind also the right of commuters to use roads without any impediment.

“Before June 30, 2011, the appropriate government is to enact a law on the basis of the Bill mentioned [by the authorities] or on the basis of any amendment thereof so that the hawkers may precisely know the contours of their rights, said a Bench of Justices G. S. Singhvi and A. K. Ganguly. It was disposing of a batch of appeals filed by hawkers.

Writing the judgment, Justice Ganguly: “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 19 (1) (d).”

Conflicting rights

The Bench said “these two apparently conflicting rights must be harmonised and regulated by subjecting them to reasonable restrictions only under a law. The question is vitally important to a very large section of people, mostly ordinary men and women.”

The Bench pointed out that the government had already brought in a Bill.

The fundamental right of the hawkers, just because “they are poor and unorganised, cannot be left in limbo, nor can it left to be decided by the varying standards of a scheme which changes from time to time under orders of this court.”

The Bench pointed out that hawking in the streets of the capital, whose municipal limits had expanded over the years, was the subject matter of several proceedings in this court.

Quoting an earlier judgment on the need for regulating hawkers, the Bench said: “Considering that an alarming percentage of population in our country lives below the poverty line and when citizens by gathering meagre resources try to employ themselves as hawkers and street traders, they cannot be subjected to a deprivation on the pretext that they have no right”.

Original article can be accessed at The Hindu website.