In a breather to urban street vendors and hawkers, the Supreme Court has restrained all states and Union Territories from taking any action against them and directed the governments to implement the 2009 national policy for their regulation.
“All the existing street vendors/hawkers operating across the country shall be allowed to operate till the exercise of registration and creation of vending/hawking zones is completed in terms of the 2009 policy on urban street vendors.”Once that exercise is completed, they shall be entitled to operate only in accordance with the orders of the concerned Town Vending Committees(TVCs),” a bench of Justice G S Singhvi said.
It said that TVCs should be set up in each town which would consist of representatives of various organizations and street vendors and 30 percent of the representatives from the category of vendors shall be women. The committees shall be free to divide the municipal areas in vending/hawking zones and sub-zones and for this purpose they may take assistance of experts in the field,” the bench said.
“All street vendors/hawkers shall be registered in accordance with the 2009 Policy. Once registered, the street vendor/ hawker, shall be entitled to operate in the area specified by the TVC,” the bench said.
The apex court said that the process of registration must be completed by the municipal authorities across the country within four months of the receipt of the direction by the Chief Secretaries of the States and Administrators of the Union Territories.
The court said that the problems of vendors has aggravated because of lackadaisical attitude of the administration and they received raw treatment from the state apparatus before and even after the country gained independence.
“They are a harassed lot and are constantly victimized by the officials of the local authorities, the police, etc., who regularly target them for extra income and treat them with extreme contempt. “The goods and belongings of the street vendors/hawkers are thrown to the ground and destroyed at regular intervals if they are not able to meet the demands of the officials. Perhaps these minions in the administration have not understood meaning of the term dignity enshrined in the preamble of the Constitution,” the bench said.
“One reason which has contributed to this scenario is that unlike other sections of the urban population, they neither have the capacity and strength to demand that the government should create jobs for them nor do they engage in begging, stealing or extortion. They try to live with dignity and self-respect by doing the work as street vendors/hawkers,” it said.