Is there any provision in law to ban hookah bars, HC asks BMC

Mumbai, July 21 The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation faced some tough questions from the Bombay High Court on Monday regarding its decision to ban hookah bars in the city. “Is there any provision in law which bans hookah bars?” a division bench of Justice R M S Khandeparkar and Justice Amjad Sayed asked the counsel appearing for the corporation.
The judges were hearing a petition moved by a suburban restobar, which is challenging the BMC circular to ban hookahs in eateries and restaurants. Petitioner Bharat Sheth of Cosmic Restobar near Khar railway station has contended that the corporation has no jurisdiction to implement such a circular in view of the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertising and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act 2003.
The counsel appearing for the BMC argued that they were doing it on the basis of licence conditions like public safety and fire hazards.
“When you say public safety there should be guidelines. How can you implement the circular?” the court asked. “What is the licence condition which prohibits use of hookah,” Justice Khandeparkar asked.
The court then recorded the BMC’s submission that no action is contemplated under the circular and directed them to file an affidavit by August 1 and adjourned the matter till August 5.
Senior Counsel Navroz Seervai, appearing for the petitioner, argued that the BMC cannot revoke the licence on the pretext of licence conditions like public safety and fire hazards. “Have they stopped buffet where the food is kept on fire or the romantic candle-lit dinner,” Seervai asked.
“Sometimes some dangerous things give romantic pleasure to your eyes,” Justice Khandeparkar remarked.
Seervai further pointed out the provisions under the statutory act under the legislature which gives the right to smoke subject to other conditions like not serving to persons under 18. He cited the Supreme Court judgment which held that if the Central government has regulated the tobacco act then the state governments or other authorities cannot interfere with it. “I have an express right to permit smoking as there is no complete ban on tobacco that has been imposed by the Central legislature,” Seervai submitted.
“They should refrain from interfering in such matters as the legislature has already regulated it,” said petitioner’s counsel Rajiv Narola.
Seervai said civic officials had only held a meeting and issued a circular to close down all hookah parlours.
Mohan Kumar
Posted online: Tuesday , July 22, 2008 at 04:30:02Updated: Tuesday , July 22, 2008 at 04:30:02
www.expressindia.

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