Guj HC: Can’t stop people from eating what they want

Taking Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation to task for its drive against street carts selling nonvegetarian food, the Gujarat HC questioned how citizens could be stopped from “eating what they want” just because “somebody in power thinks this is what they want you to do”.

“You don’t like non-vegetarian food? That is your outlook. How can you decide what we should eat outside?” Justice Biren Vaishnav said. “Around the Vastrapur lake, hawkers are selling eggs and omelettes. Overnight, you will pick them up and send them away because the party in power says that they don’t want people to eat eggs?”

The judge said, “How dare you indiscriminately pick up people like this and seize their assets?” 

The judge told the municipal counsel: “Ask your commissioner to remain present (in court) and answer (the question). ” He further said, "Don’t undertake a drive to satisfy the ego of some people... Tomorrow they will tell me not to take sugarcane juice because it causes diabetes, or that coffee is bad for health.”

Justice Vaishnav was responding to a petition filed by a group of street vendors against the civic body’s campaign last month to stop them from selling non-vegetarian food. Terming drive tantamount to “bigotry”, the vendors demanded that their carts and stalls be returned to allow them to resume business. They said the municipal authorities had declared the carts wouldn't be returned before 45 days.

The AMC counsel claimed no particular group had been discriminated against, and that the drive was an extension of the anti-encroachment campaign against vendors creating hurdles in traffic movement and blocking footpaths.

“This is a simple drive against encroachment. They (petitioners) are giving it colour,” the counsel said, to which the judge responded that it was the civic body that had given a campaign against vendors selling non-vegetarian food the “colour of a drive against encroachment”. The judge directed the civic body to return all seized carts and stalls in accordance with the law.

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