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Hawkers v/s Hawking Policy And The Supreme Court's Stand

On the 11th of April 2022, the Supreme Court of India dismissed an SLP arising out of a Writ Petition of Mandamus filed by a hawker of Sarojni Nagar Market, named Madan Lal, in the Delhi High Court, which was dismissed by the bench comprising of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh. The petitioner prayed to the High Court that he be permitted to keep his goods and wares at the place where he is hawking overnight, and the NDMC be directed to permit the same.

The High Court reasoned that the prayer of the petitioner goes against the concept of hawking. It explained the concept of hawking as one being where the hawker comes to the allotted area during the hours of hawking with his or her goods and wares; undertakes the activity of hawking and leaves the area along with his or her goods and wares at the end of the hawking period.[1]

The High Court further observed that as per the order passed in W.P.(C) 9929/2021 by the same court, where it was observed that the Delhi Police shall seize all such articles and goods which are found lying in the Market area on a daily basis with the assistance of the officers of the NDMC.

The Apex Court, while dismissing the SLP observed that the hawker has to follow the Hawking Policy and they cannot be allowed to do anything in contravention of it. The policy that the Supreme Court mentioned is the National Policy on Urban Street Vendors. The said policy highlights the ruling of the Supreme Court where it said that if properly regulated, according to the exigency of the circumstances, the small traders on the sidewalks can considerably add to the comfort and convenience of the general public, by making available ordinary articles of everyday use for a comparatively lesser price.[2] The same policy talks about the valuable services provided by the hawkers to the urban population and also about Article 19(1)(g) and Articles 39(a) & (b).

A street vendor or hawker is defined as a person who offers goods or services for sale to the public without having a permanent built-up structure in a street. Three types of vendors are defined in the policy. First, those vendors who carry out vending on a regular basis with a specific location, and, second, those vendors who carry out vending not on a regular basis and without a specific location, lastly the mobile vendors.[3]

Regarding the goods and wares of the hawkers/vendors, the policy states that the governments shall amend section 283 of the IPC and section 34 of the Police Act, so as to regularize the hawking as well as to maintain and control any obstruction caused by the practice of hawking to the general public. The policy states that there should be a provision of imposing fines, with due notice for clearing of space, and the hawkers/vendors should be warned/informed before starting the clearing up process. In regard to the confiscated goods, the policy provides the hawkers/vendors with the right to get their goods back within a reasonable time on payment of a prescribed fee.

The object of the above-mentioned policy is to provide and promote a supportive environment for earning livelihoods to the vast mass of urban street vendors while ensuring that such activity does not lead to overcrowding and unsanitary conditions in public spaces and streets. Other objects of the policy are to give legal status to the vendors, creation of hawking zones, regularize the hawking sector, promotion of organizations of hawkers, rehabilitation of child hawkers, and lastly provision of social security to the hawkers.

In light of the decision of the Apex Court and the policy, the government, for the welfare of hawkers, shall make some arrangements as to the storage of the goods and wares of the hawkers, so as to facilitate a smooth process of hawking, as most of the hawkers reside far away from their place of hawking and they have to carry big and heavy bags of goods and wares. Therefore, a mechanism shall be developed by the governments so that the hawkers can be relieved of carrying heavy goods and wares twice every day, and at the same time, the storage of their goods and wares doesn�t cause any obstruction to the general public.

End-Notes:
  1. W.P.(C) 681/2022, Delhi High Court.
  2. National Policy on Urban Street Vendors.
  3. Ibid.

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