Bengaluru: Karnataka high court asked the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) on Monday, to submit an affidavit in three weeks stating the steps that will be taken to prevent the encroachment of footpaths by shopkeepers. 

Three Public Interest Litigations (PIL) were filed in the high court (HC) regarding the issue of encroachment of footpaths by shop owners and the non-implementation of Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014. A division bench comprising Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice HT Narendra Prasad heard the petitions and then directed the civic body to submit the affidavit.

The Bench observed that the public streets are meant for traffic and that the footpaths are meant for citizens to walk. It also said that footpaths have to maintained in such a way that citizens can freely walk. Allowing encroachments on to the footpaths will mean denying citizens’ right, reports said.

The BBMP counsel said that they have been taking action against the structures illegally put up on the footpaths by shopkeepers. But the petitioners informed that these shop owners encroach the footpaths again few hours or days after action is taken against them by the BBMP. They also contended that a lot of shopkeepers illegally extended their business area on to the footpaths.

According to reports, after examining the provisions of Karnataka Municipality Corporations Act, 1976, the bench said that the commissioner of a city corporation has the power to remove illegal structures of encroachment from streets or footpaths. They are not even liable to provide a notice to these person(s) in advance.

The Act prohibits the obstruction of footpaths except for a few exemptions. But according to the Act, the civic body has the responsibility to keep the footpaths clear without any encroachments and to maintain them.

According to reports, the bench clearly stated that the action is to be taken only against shopkeepers, who have encroached on to the footpaths and not against street vendors, who fall under the Street Vendors Act.

The Street Vendors Act came into force on May 1, 2014. But the rules have not been implemented yet. Reports state that the court directed the Karnataka chief secretary to file an affidavit stating the reason for the delay in the implementation of the Street Vendors Act. The court reportedly called the non-implementation of the Act in the past five years “gross default by the state”.