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Monday, Sep 23, 2019

24x7 shops, hotels in Mumbai: Year after amendment, cops deny permission

In January 2018, the state government had issued a notification amending the Shops and Establishments Act to allow shops, malls, restaurants that do not serve alcohol to operate 24x7.

mumbai Updated: Feb 11, 2019 00:50 IST
Surendra P Gangan
Surendra P Gangan
Hindustan Times
With food and retail associations moving the state for clarity on the issue, the government has directed the police to come clear on their directives after a meeting held last week.
With food and retail associations moving the state for clarity on the issue, the government has directed the police to come clear on their directives after a meeting held last week.(HT File)
         

More than a year after Maharashtra became the first state to allow shops, hotels and restaurants to remain open 24x7, no establishments can be found open at night as the police deny them permission, citing law and order issues. With food and retail associations moving the state for clarity on the issue, the government has directed the police to come clear on their directives after a meeting held last week.

In January 2018, the state government had issued a notification amending the Shops and Establishments (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Services) Act to allow shops, malls, restaurants that do not serve alcohol to operate all night long. However, last month, fast food company McDonalds’ permission application to keep more than 100 outlets across the state open 24x7, was turned down by the home department.

The department cited a circular issued in 2016 under the Mumbai Police Act, which mandates police permission to keep shops open after 10pm and hotels after 1.30am in bigger cities and 12.30am in smaller ones. Applications by two other clothing retail chains were also rejected.

In a clarification issued to the Retailers Association of India (RAI) in May 2018, the labour department had claimed the 24-hour-operations permission was subject to circulars issued by police and other licencing authorities. “The amendment was to safeguard the interest of workers. The amendments changed the nature of the law to enabling, instead of restrictive. However, what is happening is that the police are using their old circulars to restrict shops from operating 24 hours,” said an official from the labour department.

Rajesh Kumar, principal secretary, labour department, said there was a meeting with retailers associations, establishments and the police authorities last week. “The police are expected to either amend their existing circular to permit 24-hour operation of establishments or issue a fresh circular to continue the restriction on the timings.”.

However, minister of state for home Ranjit Patil said a practical decision needs to be taken as cops are often overburdened. “The issue will be taken up with the chief minister. In a city like Mumbai, the police are overburdened. They are held responsible in case of any untoward incident. Hence, practical decision must be taken.”

Retailers associations said they are hopeful of some changes soon. “ We had a meeting with the chief secretary along with officials from other departments. The government is going to clarify the decision,” said Kumar Rajagopalan, CEO, RAI. Spokesperson for McDonalds India, however, refused to comment on the issue. Senior counsel Nitin Pradhan said this was a case of legislative mismanagement.

“When the state has passed the law, what business do the police have to stop the implementation. Under the guise of law and order, they are resisting the implementation as they do not want to lose their power.”

The state government, while easing the licencing process in 2018, had also mandated three shifts for workers and transport facilities for women employees. Viren Shah, president, Federation of Retail Traders Welfare Association, said, “Most establishments are not opting for extended working hours as its not feasible for them in terms of expenditure on manpower, electricity and other overheads.”

First Published: Feb 11, 2019 00:49 IST