August 4, 2021


Street vendors form a very important segment of the unorganized sector in the country. It is estimated that in several cities street vendors count for about 2 per cent of the population. Women constitute a large segment of these street vendors in almost every city. The right to carry on trade is a fundamental right of the vendors and hawkers but it doesn’t mean that street trading is a right as such without any restrictions.


Provisions in Indian Constitution:

  • Preamble: The Indian Constitution is a social document and the majority of its provisions are aimed at promoting equality, justice, fraternity and liberty by establishing the favourable conditions required for its achievement.
  • Article 14 provides for Equality before law
  • Article 19 (1) (g) provides for Protection of rights related to freedom to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business
  • Article 21 provides for Protection of life and personal liberty.


The municipal laws do not directly prohibit vending and hawking as a profession but impose a gamut of restrictions on but regulates the use of pavements. In contrast, the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988 and the Bombay Police Act, 1951, regulate order on the streets and maintain the public order.

Motor Vehicles Act, 1988:

Section 201 of Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 penalizes anyone who obstruct the flow of traffic on the public highway. It is specially designed for avoiding unnecessary traffic block and is applicable to both motorised and non-motorised vehicles.

Criminal Procedure Code, 1973

Section 151 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 permits the arrest of anyone about to commit any cognizable offence without orders from a Magistrate and without a warrant; however, the person cannot be detained in the police custody for more than 24 hours from the time of his/ her arrest.

Bellagio Declaration:

It covers importance of:

  • vending license,
  • planning of hawking zones and
  • other related matters

but even after a decade, still in India, vending is not legalized.

National Policy on Urban Street Vendors, 2009

It was another revised policy of the Bellagio International Declaration of Street Vendors, 1995 which recognizes street vendors as an integral and legitimate part of the urban retail trade and distribution system.

As per this each vendors will be allowed to carry on business for 20 years.

NASVI -National Association of Street Vendors of India:

This was registered in the year 2003 under the Societies registration Act of 1860 and it aims to organize and protect the street vendors. They have conducted many surveys in many cities to study about the vendor’s problem and also other related matters with their central aim to tackle the problems faced by the hawkers.


The idea of licensing came up to prevent illegitimate business which runs in the name of street vending and at protection of hawkers from the harassment of police and other influential persons and serves the purpose of identification of vendors in the area so as to maintain the space management along with helping them in registration.

The Street Vendors Act (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) 2013:

The Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2013 to supersede the restrictions imposed. SEWA also made a presentation before the parliamentary standing committee regarding the contents of the law. The organization also held a hunger strike and did lots of lobbying and Advocacy.


Bombay Hawker Union v. Bombay Municipal Corporation

The Court held that the Non-Hawking Zones maybe fixed by the Municipal Commissioner in his discretion, in consultation with the Bombay Municipal Corporation. In other areas, licenses should be granted to the hawkers to do their business on payment of the prescribed fee.

South Calcutta Hawkers, Association v. Govt. of West Bengal

The court observed that Street trading being a fundamental right has to be made available to the citizens but subject to Art. 19(6) of the Constitution. It is within the domain of the State to make any law imposing reasonable restrictions in the interest of general public on such right. The court also observed that proper regulation is essential condition as otherwise the very object of laying out roads to facilitate traffic may be defeated.

Olga Tellis & Ors v. Bombay Municipal Corporation

The court observed that no person can live without the means of living that is the means of livelihood. If, the right to livelihood is not treated as a part of constitutional right to life, the easiest way of depriving a person of his right to life would be to deprive him of his means of his livelihood to the point of abrogation.


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