Mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya's plans to make the return of hawkers to city pavements official could soon hit a roadblock.
Calcutta High Court had ruled last year that eight thoroughfares in the city would have to be 'free of hawkers'.
In response to a petition filed by environmentalist Subhas Dutta, a division bench of Justice V.S. Sirpurkar and Justice A.K. Ganguly had directed the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC), backed by Calcutta Police, to remove all hawkers from these roads and submit a compliance report to the court.
Though the compliance report was to have been submitted by October 31, 2005, the matter has not come up for hearing since.
The designated hawker-free stretches were Brabourne Road, Kali Krishna Tagore Street, Kalakar Street, Strand Road, Chitpur Road, Rabindra Sarani, NS Road and a portion of AJC Bose Road.
When Metro visited some of these sites on Thursday afternoon, finding the pavements was a tough task and walking them was mission impossible .
'The hawkers have always been there. We must realise that they are very much a part of this city so we cannot pretend that they do not exist,' the mayor said on Thursday. 'My entire exercise is aimed at making them more disciplined by allowing them to occupy no more than a third of the pavement and to make them more sensitive to the people of this city.'
With hawker raj lining thoroughfares, the mayor would have to launch nothing short of a mini Operation Sunshine to clear two-thirds of the pavements.
Responding to the mayor's move to make the return of hawkers official, legal experts said allowing vendors back on at least the eight thoroughfares would amount to contempt of court. The high court, they added, had stated that hawking was not a fundamental right and that all hawkers would have to be evicted from these eight stretches for the convenience of the people of Calcutta.
A sitting judge of the high court told Metro: 'If the civic body's decision is in relation to these eight roads then it would straightaway amount to contempt of court.'
Even the counsel for the CMC, Alok Ghosh, admitted: 'The civic authorities will have to first obey the court's instructions and clear all hawkers from these eight roads. Having done that, they will have to move the court again stating their present decision and seeking fresh permission to allow hawkers back again. Otherwise it would amount to contempt.'
The mayor, an advocate, insisted that he had no intention of flouting the court ruling. 'I shall of course abide by the court's orders,' Bhattacharyya said on Thursday. 'That is why a steering committee is being set up to see how best our decision can be implemented. The committee will ensure that the court's orders are not flouted.'