New Delhi Sept 17(ILNS): The Delhi High Court today in a batch of petitions filed by various restaurants, bars, and lounges, asked the AAP Government to reconsider its decision of not allowing the sale and service of “Herbal Hookah” in Delhi.
A single Judge-bench comprised of Justice Rekha Palli issued a Notice to the Delhi Government and expressed: “It is expected that Delhi Disaster Management Authority will consider this aspect on an urgent basis.”
Advocate Nandani Sahni appearing for the petitioners submitted that, in the premises run by the petitioners, individual Hookahs are being provided to the customers, the petitioners have also filed an affidavit stating the same, furthermore, only 5-10 % of the customers demand Hookahs.
Advocate Sahni further submitted, if the Delhi Police has restarted the use of Breathalyzers for detecting Drunk driving, there is no reason to deny permission to petitioners, whose livelihoods depended on it.
Advocate Sahni concluded by contending that, Delhi Lounge and Bar Pvt ltd., the petitioner in W.P (C):13640/2019 is still continuing to provide the services of Hookah without any interference from the respondents, hence discriminating against the petitioners.
Government of NCT of Delhi
Advocate Santosh Kumar Tripathi appearing on the behalf of Government of NCT of Delhi vehemently opposed the submissions made on behalf of the petitioner by stating:
“Entire Delhi will pay a price for opening of Hookah bars. We’re having our masks on while we’re driving in the car, sitting alone. How can we allow Hookah to be served in bars?”
Advocate Tripathi relied on an order of DDMA dated August 3, 2020, whereby, it had prohibited the use of Hookah, with or without Tobacco to be served at restaurants and bars, to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Justice Rekha Palli: “When the Delhi Government is allowing other activities and the petitioners are willing to undertake, then you have to make a decision. Livelihood also has to be balanced.”
On the previous date of hearing, the court had granted time to petitioners, to file a copy of DDMA’s order dated August 3, 2020.
The next date of hearing is September 30, 2021.
The Separate petitions were filed by Breath Fine Lounge and Bar, TOS, R High Speedbar and Lounge, Verandah Moonshine, and Sixth Empirica Lounge in West Punjabi Bagh, challenging the order of the Joint Commissioner of Police (Licensing Unit) prohibiting and excluding the sale or service of herbal flavored hookahs in restaurant/ bar being run by them.
The pleas said the petitioners are serving herbal hookahs for which no license is required as they are totally without tobacco but the police are still conducting raids, seizing equipment, and issuing challans.
The pleas have sought to declare that definition of ”smoking” under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), does not cover herbal flavored hookahs and to direct the authorities not to take any extreme step of suspension or cancellation of registration certificate of the petitioners.
The Delhi government order passed on August 3, 2020, by the Health Department observed that in public places, the use and sharing of hookah with and without tobacco (herbal hookah) may further increase the spread of coronavirus.
“Now, therefore, in the exercise of powers conferred by the Delhi Epidemic Diseases, COVID-19, Regulations, 2020 under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, the use of hookah (with or without tobacco, that is, herbal hookah, water pipes, and other hookahs like devices) in all public places including hotels, restaurants, eatery houses, bars, pubs, discotheques, etc, of the NCT of Delhi is strictly prohibited with immediate effect, for the purpose of prevention and control of the outbreak of epidemic disease namely COVID-19 in NCT of Delhi,” the Delhi government order said./ILNS/SR/KR/SNG