Hookah Ban: Bombay HC issues notice to Maharashtra govt. after restauranters challenge ban

Hookah Ban: Bombay HC issues notice to Maharashtra govt. after restaurateurs challenge ban
The petitioners have challenged the new law, arguing that it breaches their Constitutional right to earn a living (Representational Image, Courtesy: Kannada Club)

The Bombay High Court on Monday issued a notice to the Maharashtra government on petitions challenging the blanket ban on hookah parlours in the state.

A bench of Chief Justice Naresh Patil and Justice M S Karnik directed the state to file its reply by December 17.

The bench was hearing a bunch of petitions filed by owners of hookah parlours, in which they have challenged a new law brought into effect by the state government in October.

On October 4, the Maharashtra government brought into effect a statutory amendment to the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition) Act (COTPA) of 2003 to ban hookah parlours.

The new Act is called COTPA (Maharashtra Amendment) Act, 2018 and was granted the President’s assent in September.

It prohibits any person from “owning or opening and running on behalf of someone else, a hookah parlour at any place in the state, including at eating houses.”

As per the petition, the state government introduced the amended Act following the incident of fire at the Kamala Mills compound in the city last year.

The fire that killed 14 people had started from hookah embers at one of the restaurants in the compound.

The state’s resolution notifying the new Act also mentioned that it would help curb incidents of minors, college students etc., consuming tobacco since they frequented such hookah parlours.

The petitioners have challenged the new law, arguing that it breaches their Constitutional right to earn a living.

The petitioners have argued that the Constitution permits the state to impose reasonable restrictions in the light of greater public interest, but in the present case, the state has not imposed restrictions but, instead, “entirely eliminated” their means of livelihood.

They have also argued that while the state and central laws do not prohibit the inherent consumption of tobacco, the new Maharashtra Amendment Act unreasonably prohibits the consumption of tobacco “through a particular medium”.

The petitions also state that the Kamala Mills fire resulted not because of the consumption of hookah but because the owners of the restaurant had not complied with the state and the BMC rules on demarcating a separate, safe place for hookahs.

In 2010, the BMC had barred the use of tobacco in the form of cigarettes, bidis, and hookahs in all restaurants and hotels and other licensed eating premises.

The ban, however, was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2014 that permitted restaurants to allow smoking but in a separate, demarcated smoking zone.

With agency inputs

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