The fundamental right of citizens to live a “good life” must be placed above everything else, observed the Bombay high court (HC) on Wednesday. The HC was directing revenue authorities to close a bar which was running in a residential colony at Nagpur despite strong opposition from locals.
“It is necessary that the government respects the wishes of citizens and takes care of their fundamental rights before exercising power to grant a FL-III licence (foreign liquor licence for a bar and restaurant),” said justice AB Chaudhari.
The court was hearing a petition filed by Shaila Badwaik, Sunita Mhaske and Swati Mahajan, residents of Vidarbha housing board colony at Nagpur. They had challenged the then state excise minister’s order on October 30, 2010 granting FL-III licence to Hotel Shobha running within the residential premises of the colony. The minister had granted the licence although both the collector and commissioner, state excise had rejected the restaurant owner’s plea on the basis of police reports.
The women contended that the minister had shown little regard for their fundamental right to live peacefully while granting a liquor licence for the restaurant in a housing colony. They further contended that the licence should not have been granted since the restaurant was not located on the main road where commercial activities were permitted.
On the other hand, it was submitted on behalf of the state government that the women had no reason to be aggrieved as they had not raised any objection to the restaurant, the licence for which had been granted six years ago. The argument, however, failed to impress upon the court.
Ultimately, the HC struck down the licence granted to Hotel Shobha and directed authorities to shut down the bar, which has been running for two years now, by July 12. The court also directed the government to pay, within four weeks, an amount of Rs25,000 to the petitioners as compensation for violating their fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution of India.