| Food being sold on the pavements along Writers' Buildings. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
Pavements along thoroughfares of the city's central business district cannot be the parking place for vendors, Calcutta High Court ruled on Friday.
'This court directs police to initiate measures, with assistance from the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC), to have all vendors, who are encroachers, removed from the footpaths running along eight roads,' said the division bench, comprising Chief Justice V.S. Sirpurkar and Justice A.K. Ganguly.
Strand Road, Brabourne Road, Kali Krishna Tagore Street, Chitpur Road, Netaji Subhas Bose Road, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Kalakar Street and AJC Bose Road have been earmarked for the eviction of unionised vendors selling food, clothes and items of daily use on the footpaths through the week.
Chief Justice Sirpurkar and Justice Ganguly directed police to first remove the hawkers and then deploy pickets to prevent the encroachers from returning to the pavements, often to crowd out pedestrians and cause chaos.
In the presence of deputy commissioner (traffic) Arun Sharma, the court said: 'Police will have to keep a strict vigil so that no further encroachment can take place. In the case of Strand Road, the CMC will have to erect a fencing along the footpath.'
The order followed a report submitted by the five-man team, headed by deputy commissioner (traffic) Arun Sharma, constituted by the court on April 4 to take stock of the thoroughfares and probe the causes behind their congestion.
The committee submitted a 10-point report of suggestions for the smooth flow of pedestrian and vehicular traffic on the eight stretches, ranging from hawker eviction to road repair to keeping slow-moving vehicles out of the business hub.
Asking petitioner Subhas Dutta to make the CMC a party to the case, the court said the five-man committee would have to write to the civic authorities urging them to repair roads immediately.
'The CMC will also have to look into illegal encroachment on footpaths and ensure that the roads are kept clean,' the court order stated.
The bench observed that there should be mobile courts to penalise those violating traffic and pavement norms. 'The rate of spot fines should be enhanced,' it suggested.
The court also stressed the need to impose penalties on slow-moving vehicles. 'These vehicles are responsible for traffic snarls. Police will have to take stern action against such vehicles,' the division bench ordered.
The bench fixed the next date of hearing in the second week of June.