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Shift bazaars to free roads
- Court invites public opinion on ouster

In a judgment that could lead to easier movement on roads and pavements, Calcutta High Court on Friday ordered an initiative to remove illegal bazaars that block pathways, cause pollution and hold up traffic.

Friday's court judgment highlights the obstruction caused by innumerable such illegal bazaars that have come up in almost all Calcutta neighbourhoods.

The division bench, comprising acting Chief Justice A.N. Roy and Justice A.K. Mitra, called for a debate and formation of public opinion on the issue of removal of all illegal bazaars that block roads and footpaths.

While passing their order on a public interest litigation filed by some residents of Metiabruz against mushrooming of unauthorised bazaars in the area, the judges observed: 'This is a genuine PIL. Encroachment on footpaths and roads is a perennial problem for the city and this has to be addressed without delay.'

The court directed the petitioner organisation to issue an advertisement in leading newspapers advising members of the public to become party to a bazaar-hatao campaign.

It said such illegal bazaars cannot thrive without a nexus between rogue traders, political leaders and policemen.

'We cannot allow such bazaars to continue on roads and footpaths, causing inconvenience to pedestrians and commuters. They have to be removed to make life easier,' the judges observed.

That the high court is serious about reining in illegal bazaars across the city was evident from Friday's interim order of the bench. It directed the civic authorities, as well as Calcutta Police, not to allow illegal traders to occupy a major portion of SA Faruquee Road, in the Metiabruz area.

'Only those traders with a proper licence from the civic authorities can be allowed to ply their trade in a market building, without encroaching on the roads,' the court further said.

The petition will come up for hearing again after the Puja vacation, when the opinion of all the parties concerned will be heard.

A club called Mandalpara Tarun Samity on Friday moved the PIL demanding action against illegal traders who had encroached on SA Faruquee Road. Nilay Sengupta, appearing for the petitioner organisation, told the court that more than 100 unauthorised stalls in front of the Metiabruz market had made things difficult for people of the area.

'Pedestrians, including schoolchildren, cannot walk on the road as a major portion of it is illegally occupied by the traders,' the court was told. 'Even patients cannot be rushed to hospital, as traffic jams owing to the encroachments are a daily affair.'

Sengupta pleaded that the stall-owners be allowed to ply their trade on Saturday evenings, Sundays and holidays.

'We have no intention of stopping their business. But there should be some sort of restriction on them,' he added.

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