Delhi govt opposes plea by restaurants seeking nod to serve herbal hookah
The Delhi government on Wednesday opposed a plea by several restaurants and bars urging the Delhi high court to direct the city government and the police to not interfere with the sale of herbal flavoured hookahs or take coercive steps against them.
Delhi government standing counsel Santosh Kumar Tripathi said the use of hookah, be it with or without tobacco, in all public places, including hotels, restaurants, eateries, bars, pubs and discotheques, in the national capital is strictly prohibited as use or sharing of hookah may further increase spread of Covid-19.
He submitted that on August 3, 2020, an order was passed by the health department which has observed that in public places, use and sharing of hookah with or without tobacco (herbal hookah) may further increase spread of coronavirus infection.
Justice Rekha Palli listed the matter for further hearing to September 20 as the counsel for petitioner restaurants and bars said he would file an additional affidavit.
“They (Delhi government) have a problem with shared hookah which could lead to spread of Covid-19. If 40 people are using 10 hookahs, it is a problem,” the court said, adding that this is an entirely different situation.
Senior advocate Sandeep Sethi, representing the petitioner entities, said as long as restaurants undertake not to use nicotine in hookah, they cannot be prohibited from carrying out their businesses.
Separate petitions were filed by Breath Fine Lounge and Bar, TOS, R High Speedbar and Lounge, Verandah Moonshine and Sixth Empirica Lounge in west Punjabi Bagh, challenging the order of joint commissioner of police (licensing unit) prohibiting and excluding the sale or service of herbal flavoured hookahs in restaurants/ bars.
The pleas said the petitioners are serving herbal hookahs for which no licence is required as they are totally without tobacco but the police are still conducting searches and seizing equipment and fining establishments.
It pointed out that the definition of “smoking” under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), does not cover herbal flavoured hookahs and asked the court to direct the authorities not to take any extreme step such as suspension or cancellation of registration certificate of petitioners.