Unmarried couple staying in a hotel neither illegal nor criminal: Madras HC

The Judge said the extreme step of sealing the service apartment of a popular chain of budget hotels appeared to have been taken following news circulated on social media that the apartment complex was being used for short stays.
Justice MS Ramesh of the Madras High Court directed the Coimbatore District Collector to de-seal the service apartment within two days of receiving the court order.(PTI PHOTO.)
Justice MS Ramesh of the Madras High Court directed the Coimbatore District Collector to de-seal the service apartment within two days of receiving the court order.(PTI PHOTO.)
Updated on Dec 07, 2019 11:18 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Chennai | By MC Rajan

An unmarried couple staying together in a hotel room is neither illegal nor a criminal offence, the Madras High Court has said and made it clear that a live-in relationship between two adults cannot be deemed to be an offence.

Justice MS Ramesh, on Friday, also directed the authorities in Coimbatore city to de-seal a service apartment complex which had been sealed after an unmarried couple was found staying together.

The court wondered at the action of the authorities sealing the complex based on the mere fact of two adults occupying a room and spotting a few liquor bottles, without any notice or a written order.

The Judge said the extreme step of sealing the service apartment of a popular chain of budget hotels appeared to have been taken following news circulated on social media that the apartment complex was being used for short stays and holding it to be immoral.

“When a live-in relationship between two adults is not deemed to be an offence, the occupation of a hotel room by an unmarried couple will not attract any criminal offence. While that being so, the extreme step of sealing the premises on the ground that an unmarried couple was occupying it is totally illegal,” the Judge ruled.

“When a specific question was put to the respondents (police and revenue officials) as to what could be the illegality in permitting unmarried couples to stay in hotel rooms, they had no answer. Apparently,” the Judge pointed out and said that there are no laws or regulations preventing unmarried people of opposite sexes to stay in hotels.

On the question of recovery of liquor bottles from one of the rooms, the Judge said it was not the case of the officials that the management was supplying liquor to the guests without a licence.

The Judge also drew attention to the fact that the Tamil Nadu Liquor (Possession for Personal Consumption) Rules of 1996 allowed an individual to keep 4.5 litres of Indian Made Foreign Liquor and 4.5 litres of foreign liquor, 7.8 litres of beer and 9 litres of wine at any given point of time.

“As such, consumption of liquor by the guests on the petitioner’s premises cannot also be termed illegal. Above all, the entire episode of sealing the premises is in total violation of principles of natural justice,” Justice Ramesh noted, adding that the officials should have sought an explanation from the management before taking any coercive step when the alleged ‘immoral’ activities at the apartment do not constitute any offence.

The Judge directed the Coimbatore District Collector to de-seal the premises within two days of receiving the court order.

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Saturday, October 23, 2021