Close on the heels of civic agencies planning joint raids with the Delhi Police on eating joints doubling up as ‘hookah bars’, especially in south Delhi, the Delhi government has said that it is in favour of banning such illegal operations.
Delhi government standing counsel Najmi Waziri told a bench headed by chief justice D Murugesan: “We are for stopping the operation of all illegal hookah bars. It is an enticement to the most susceptible class of the society that is the youth. Delhi Government is concerned about it and has asked the licensing department of civic agencies to crack down on all such food joints".
Waziri also told the court that it was the duty of the civic agency officials to check if the hotels were violating the tobacco act.
“MCD must not be merely saying that such acts were not permissible but should be taking action against them,” he added.
A number of restaurants are under the scanner of the court for illegally doubling up as 'hookah bars' when they only had the licence to function as eating joints.
The court had been slamming the municipal corporations and the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) for not making the restaurants — mostly in Greater Kailash-I, GK-II, South Extension, Connaught Place, Defence Colony and New Friends Colony — to mandatorily follow the statutory provisions of Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Supply and Distribution) Act 2003 while issuing the licence of eating joints.
“Why don’t you incorporate the clause while giving the licence,” a bench of acting chief justice AK Sikri and justice RS Endlaw had asked the lawyers for the civic agencies while hearing a PIL filed by NGO World Lung Foundation-South Asia.
Giving a list of such restaurants, the NGO’s president GR Khatri had told the court that many eateries were functioning as hookah bars and law-enforcing authorities remained a mute spectator.
He said civic agencies were empowered to impose a fine on these hotels under Rule 4 of the Smoke Free Rules 2008 as per which their principle activity as eating joints was not carried out in consonance with the provisions of COPTA 2003.