The Madras High Court on Tuesday directed Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) Commissioner to remove all two-wheelers and other motor vehicles parked on the NSC Bose Road pavement situated right opposite to the court campus by the end of the day and report to the court on Wednesday.
Justices M. Sathyanarayanan and N. Seshasayee passed the order on a public interest litigation petition filed by 60-year-old chartered accountant Vandana Zacahriah of Kilpauk seeking a direction to the Corporation and the police to work together in laying and maintaining pavements across the city.
When the case was taken up for hearing, the judges expressed displeasure over the NSC Bose Road pavement having become a haven for hawkers despite the road having been declared as a no hawkers zone. They were also unhappy over pedestrian movement being crippled by numerous two-wheelers parked on the pavement. The judges said that even advocates were among those who violate the rules and cause inconvenience to others.
“Just because we are sitting here, do you think we do not know anything? If you are going to allow vendors and parking of vehicles, then why did you lay the pavement at all?” they asked Corporation counsel.
Justice Sathyanarayanan also wondered when on earth will the Corporation complete the task of identifying hawking and no hawking zones in the city and issuing identity cards to registered vendors. “Are you waiting for the local body polls to get over? After that, you’ll wait for the Assembly elections to get over,” the judge lamented.
In her affidavit, Ms. Zacahriah recalled that the idea of pavements was a laudable one since it was aimed at providing unhindered and safe movement for the pedestrians on a higher pedestal than the road used for vehicular traffic. It was possible due to the Paving and Lightning Act passed by the House of Commons in 1766.
However, most of the pavements in the city were unavailable for the general public and instead get encroached by the hawkers and shopkeepers. “They misuse the public pavements for private use such as extending their kitchen, placing signboards, keeping their goods for display, letting their customers park vehicles, install umbrellas and so on,” she said.
Such encroachments force the pedestrians to walk on the main roads posing a serious safety hazard. “The plight of senior citizens is unimaginable. They have to literally manoeuvre through such obstacles. All this is having a cascading effect on free vehicular traffic movement,” the petitioner’s affidavit read.
She sought for a direction to the corporation and police officials to undergo training at Central Road Research Institute (CRRI) on maintenance of pavements and then establish an special team for laying and maintaining footpaths. She also insisted on creating a web based grievance redressal forum exclusively for maintenance of pavements.
The litigant said, the police must be made to inspect all pavements within their jurisdiction on foot on a daily basis and maintain a diary which could be accessed by people through the Right to Information Act of 2005.