Smoking zones carved out in restaurants are for smokers and those spaces cannot be allowed for running hookah parlours, the Bombay high court said on Wednesday, while hearing petitions challenging a BMC circular that bans hookah parlours inside eating houses.
The civic body had issued a circular on July 4 that put indirect ban on hookah parlours run in smoking zones of some restaurants. Five hookah bar owners challenged the validity of the circular.
Their counsel Milind Sathe contended that the bar owners have the right to do everything that is not prohibited, and the municipal commissioner had no authority to issue the circular.
He pointed out that the ban on smoking in public places in 2003 (the definition includes hotels and restaurants) had an exception providing for smoking zones within hotels and restaurants.
He pointed out the rule, which says the smoking area shall be used only for smoking and no other service are to be provided in this area, and submitted that the words “other service” should be taken to services other than related to smoking.
He contended that otherwise the exception would become meaningless. The contention, however, failed to impress the division bench of chief justice Mohit Shah and justice Girish Godbole, who said the exception could not be used for allowing an activity like hookah parlour within eating houses.
“No municipal licence is required for storing and selling tobacco,” the lawyer maintained, adding, “Any establishment can store and sell tobacco so long as it is registered under the Shops and Establishment Act.”
The judges, however, discarded the contention saying the municipal commissioner had the authority to regulate activities in eating houses for which he has issued a licence. The court will continue to hear the matter on Thursday.