The Supreme Court (SC) verdict of lifting the ban on hookah smoking has come as a boon to hotels and restaurants in Mumbai that have been facing a slowdown in business. Many hoteliers said they would soon be opening hookah parlours on their premises.
Hotel and restaurant owners are happy that the Supreme Court specified only eateries with licences should be allowed to operate this business. This effectively rules out unauthorised and illegitimate joints.
According to Arvind Shetty, president, Indian Hotels and Restaurant Association (AHAR), the apex body of restaurants in the city, many hoteliers may now explore this line. “The SC verdict has in fact legitimised the hookah business and we will see many hoteliers explore this new business avenue. However, the trade will be controlled, as unauthorised joints will be shut down. The entire industry will be monitored,” Shetty said.
The Supreme Court bench, headed by justice Ranjan Gogoi, lifted the ban early this week and held that the law prohibiting ‘facilitation’ of hookah smoking in smoking zones is ultra-vires to the provisions of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COPTA or Cigarettes Act), 2003.
Apart from new entrants, those who have been in the business are busy revamping their premises and making arrangements to reopen hookah parlours.
According to Romi Chaddha, director, Cosmic Group, which was the petitioner in the case, said that he would soon open his hookah joint. “I am revamping the place and making some arrangements. I will open my hookah parlour soon,” said Chaddha, who has an outlet at Khar.
He said that the SC verdict will only add more revenue to the government exchequer apart from generating thousands of jobs in the city. A hookah parlour has to shell out at least 20% of its earnings as tax.
Hookah parlours had been flourishing in the city and attracting youths in large numbers. The problem started when, in 2008, the then Mayor Dr Shubha Raul started a campaign against hookahs on the grounds that they were a health hazard. The campaign went on till the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) issued a circular that banned hookahs. Even the high court in 2011 gave a verdict favouring the BMC ruling. This was, however, dismissed by the Supreme Court this week.
No smoking rule
* The high court in 2011 stated that all civic bodies across the state should incorporate provisions of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition) Act in the licence agreements of restaurants
* It directed the BMC to fine customers on the spot, rather than arresting them for smoking hookah
* Owners were to be instantly prosecuted by relevant authorities, if found operating hookah parlours
* Even the then home minister RR Patil took an active stance, which resulted in the ban of hookah parlours across the state.