Mumbai: A month after granting relief to a city-based restaurateur, the Bombay High Court on Thursday extended a similar relief to 40 hotels from Pune to serve herbal hookah. The HC has ordered all local authorities not to take any coercive action against hotels that serve herbal hookah.
A bench of Justices Ranjit More and Nizamuddin Jamadar said its earlier orders of July 15, would be applicable only all the hotels across Maharashtra.
On July 15, the bench led by Justice More had held that restaurants across Maharashtra cannot be barred from serving herbal hookah to their customers, unless it contains nicotine or tobacco.
The ruling was delivered on a petition filed by Sheesha restaurateur seeking permission to use herbal hookah which is not barred under the modified Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA).
The Maharashtra government had recently amended the COTPA and banned use of hookah, of any flavour, in restaurants. This was an outcome of the tragic incident of Kamla Mills’ fire, which killed more than a dozen people.
The ban was imposed after a judicial commission concluded that the fire started because of hookah coals. The new amendments provided criminal action against restaurants still serving hookah in any form.
The city-based Sheesha Skylounge objected to this modification, as it was barred from serving even herbal hookah. The restaurateur – Ali Reza Abdi, who has three outlets in the city -- argued that his fundamental right to carry out a business and equality before law are being infringed because of the ‘unconstitutional’ interpretation of the amendment in the COTPA law.
Accordingly, the bench had allowed his plea to serve herbal hookah to his customers.
On Thursday, a group of 40 hotels moved the bench led by Justice More seeking a similar relief. The bench after hearing the matter said its orders passed in Sheesha owner's plea, would be applicable on every hotel.
The judges further said that now hotels need not approach it to seek such permissions pertaining to herbal hookah.