Hearing a petition by 25 street vendors alleging that the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation had seized their carts after councillors objected to the sale of non-vegetarian items, the Gujarat High Court rebuked the civic body and ordered it to consider the cases “as expeditiously as possible” if the petitioners approached it within 24 hours for the release of their goods.
“What is your problem?” the court said addressing the government council, adding that if “you don’t like non-veg food, that is your outlook”.
“How can you decide what I eat outside? Tomorrow you will decide what I should eat outside the house? Call the corporation commissioner and ask him what he is doing. How do you dare indiscriminately pick up people?” said Justice Biren Vaishnav.
“Tomorrow they will say I should not have sugarcane juice because it causes diabetes? Or coffee because it is bad for health?” the court remarked.
Criticising the municipality’s action asked whether the action was taken because “suddenly because somebody in power thinks that this is what they want to do?”
The court was responding to submissions from the petitioners’ counsel, Ronith Joy, that their carts were seized without any official order and as a result of negative positions taken by civic bodies in Vadodara, Surat, Bhavnagar, Junagadh, and Ahmedabad, as well as remarks last month from Rajkot Mayor that carts selling non-vegetarian food hurt religious sentiments.
The Gujarat government counsel was representing also the additional chief secretary of the Urban Housing and Urban Development Department, who was named as a respondent in the petition.
After being heard in the first session, the matter was continued in the second half, with the court instructing the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation’s standing counsel, Satyam Chhaya, to appear before it.
Adhering to the order, counsel for the corporation stated in the post-lunch session that the petitions were filed under the mistaken impression that there was a drive to remove non-veg food from the streets. Instead, he claimed that the stalls were removed because they were impeding traffic and obstructing pedestrians.
“Let us be very honest. Around the Vastrapur Lake, there were hawkers selling eggs and omelettes, overnight you decide because the party in power says that you don’t want to sell eggs; will you pick them up and take them away?” Justice Vaishnav shot back.
The counsel insisted that the authority was not targeting vendors of non-vegetarian food. He requested that the Court consider the cases on their merits, arguing that such vendors would not be protected under the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014.
He also stated that if the petitioners approach the Corporation within 24 hours for the release of their goods and materials, their cases would be considered as quickly as possible in accordance with the policy and the law.
The court dismissed the petition after noting the submissions in its order.
The petitioners were represented by Advocate Ronith Joy, while the municipal corporation was represented by Advocate Satyam Chhaya.