The Kerala High Court, in the case of Ananthapuri Hospitals & Research Institute v. Corporation of Thiruvananthapuram [2023 KER 69565], held that illegal encroachments on road margins that obstruct or cause hindrance to traffic or street users may be removed without notice.
The petitioner, a hospital in Thiruvananthapuram, sought a writ of mandamus to remove encroachers, bunk shops and other temporary sheds used for conducting illegal business on the property of the National Highway Authority adjacent to the hospital. The petitioner claimed that the stalls set up in front of the hospital by several illegal street vendors were causing restrictions to the free ingress and egress of patients, doctors, etc. to the hospital apart from causing traffic congestion and obstructing ambulances. Further, despite complaints to the Regional Transport Authority regarding the matter, the illegal street vendors were not evicted. Moreover, failure to remove the bunk shops led to occupation by other persons and the businesses continued.
The Petitioner primarily claimed that since the property of the National Highway was excluded from the Scheme of the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014, therefore, the statutory authorities were liable to remove the bunk shops and sheds put up on the National Highway.
The respondents, two of the alleged street vendors, claimed protection under the Scheme of the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014 and argued that they had been conducting their business for more than two decades. Further, they claimed that their livelihood was dependent on the businesses conducted in the bunk shops and therefore they could not be evicted.
The court observed that the scheme prepared under the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014, excluded an area of 50 metres around the premises of a hospital as vending-free zones, which had not been disputed. Further, the hospital was situated adjacent to the National Highway and the area in front of the hospital which included service roads, was part of the National Highway. As per the National Highways Act, 1956, no person can occupy any part of a National Highway and no right of street vending is given under the Act.
The Court followed the Supreme Court’s position in Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation v. Nawab Khan Gulab Khan [(1997) 11 SCC 121] where it was held that unauthorized constructions on roads and road margins can be removed without a notice unless they have been in occupation for a very long time. Further, while the Kerala Municipality Act, 1994 provides for notice for removal of encroachment in or over any street, it also empowers the Secretary to summarily evict encroachments on any road or public street when the Secretary is satisfied that the encroachment causes obstruction, hindrance or inconvenience to traffic and users of the street.