Attorney Mayur Faria filed a PIL for juice seller Rizwan Khan, demanding that street vendors’ royalties and penalties for late payments be waived during the lockdown. The BMC didn’t say anything about the license fees.
A rare partnership between a cane juice vendor and a young lawyer has brought relief to licensed street vendors across town. Thanks to a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by juice seller Rizwan Khan and brought forward by attorney Mayur Faria, the BMC decided to waive the penalty for late payment of street vendor license fees for the embargo period.
Most citizens who refuse to accept injustice are hampered by failing to get lawyers to fight for them. But Khan had Faria to help him.
Sometime in July, 46-year-old Khan heard that the BMC was seizing sugar cane juice trucks and even threatening to void sellers’ security deposits for not paying royalties during the lockdown. At the station office, he was asked to pay not only the fees for the entire lockdown, but also a Rs 2,000 penalty for late payment.
Khan reached out to the street vendors union, wrote an appeal to the BMC, and even had his corporator, Rais Shaikh, write one. After nothing happened for a month, he spoke to Mayur Faria, who had helped him go to the anti-corruption office in 2014 against a police inspector who threatened to embroil Khan in a false case if he did not pay him a bribe. The inspector was convicted.
Khan approached Faria against the advice of his sugar cane sellers. Complaints from people like them were never taken up by the courts, they told him, warning Khan how long it would take to settle the matter. They refused to join his petition because they feared they would be harassed by a vengeful municipal body. Even Khan’s wife wasn’t happy with his decision.
What made Khan move on? “The constitution gave us the basic right to go to court,” he replied. “The court had given me justice before; I have full confidence in her. ”
It took an order from the Bombay Supreme Court, followed by a motion for contempt from the BMC, to tell Faria earlier this week that they had decided to waive the embargo sentence. However, Khan and Faria are determined to fight until the license fees are also waived, as called for in the PIL.
Khan said, “It’s not like we don’t want to work. The police would beat us if we tried to step away from home. The ban on resuming work has not yet been finalized. I got through but some juice sellers had to sell their wives’ jewelry to survive this lockdown. ”
This isn’t the only fight Khan waged during the lockdown. He also got some parents to work with him to pressure Safa High School, where his son is studying, to cut the lockdown fees in half. This led to a confrontation with powerful Muslim leaders. But he didn’t get the parents to convince the Anjuman-I-Islam group to cut their fees. His daughters study there.
What brings Khan to fight when others hesitate? “My father, Nisar Ahmed Khan, was a taxi driver who always stood up for the right cause. I inherited this trait from him, ”he said.
In Faria Khan found the right match. Khan’s PIL wasn’t the first the 31-year-old lawyer fought. When the BMC informed him in June that they had no video conferencing facilities and that his RTI appointment would be postponed if he did not physically appear in front of them, Faria filed a PIL. “I felt like I was denied access to justice,” he recalled.
On August 14, the BMC agreed to initiate online hearings on RTI appeals.
Faria also plans to file a PIL on behalf of Laxmi Vilas Bank shareholders against the bank’s merger with DBS Bank. He himself is a shareholder in the bank. Two other PILs he submitted have been pending since the ban.
Faria was published for free by Khan; asked why, he just laughed at his generosity.
Khan explained what motivated him and recited this couplet: “Humsafar so gaye / rehbar so gaye / kaun jaagega / agar hum bhi so gaye?” (Our companions have gone to sleep, and so have our guides. Who will stay awake when we go to sleep too? ”)
These words could also apply to Mayur Faria.