After Kamala Mills fire, Maharashtra govt mulls ban on hookah parlours | mumbai news | Hindustan Times
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After Kamala Mills fire, Maharashtra govt mulls ban on hookah parlours

Under the proposed rules, parlours won’t be given permission, but smoking hookah could be allowed in a separate zone along the lines of a smoking zone

mumbai Updated: Jan 11, 2018 00:11 IST
Surendra P Gangan
No food or beverages would be allowed to be served in the hookah zone, according to the proposal.
No food or beverages would be allowed to be served in the hookah zone, according to the proposal.

Following the fire at two restaurants in Kamala Mills that claimed 14 lives, the state government has moved a proposal to ban hookah parlours by initiating an amendment in the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA). It wants a provision of imprisonment of three years and a fine of Rs50,000. The same ban exists in Gujarat.

Under the proposed rules, parlours won’t be given permission, but smoking hookah could be allowed in a separate zone along the lines of a smoking zone. However, no food or beverages would be allowed to be served in that zone, said several state government officials involved in the procedure.

The state government, which was earlier considering regulating such parlours, has now planned to ban them. Significantly, the Shiv Sena which is an ally of ruling BJP, has been demanding ban on hookah parlours in Mumbai for quite some time.

The Mumbai fire brigade, in its probe, had concluded that the fire at the two restaurants in Kamala Mills started because of embers used for hookah and then spread owing to the combustible material used in the furniture. After the incident, the state administration has expedited the proposal, which now awaits a nod from chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, said officials.

Once part of the COTPA, hookah parlours cannot operate in the present form as they are designated as public places where food and beverages are allowed served. “Till some time ago, we were considering bringing a separate bill only to regulate the parlours by restricting minors and operation timings. The idea was to earn revenue out of their operations. But there was a rise in the demand for a ban followed by the fire at Kamala Mills. A section of official is still of the opinion that parlours should be regulated and not banned,”said a home department official familiar with the development.

Although the state government does not have official figures, an estimated 400-500 such parlours are there in Mumbai and Pune respectively. Thane, Navi Mumbai and Nagpur are the other big cities with several such parlours. They are operated by obtaining licences under the shops and establishment Act and without any regulation. The Bombay high court had banned the parlours a few years ago, but the order was later struck down by the Supreme Court on the grounds of the scope of the Act.

“COTPA definition does not have the term hookah and the parlours have been contending they do not serve tobacco in the hookah, pushing them out of the gamut of the legislation. By including hookahs in the Act, they can now be banned in today’s forms,” the official said.

Shrikant Singh, principal secretary (home), said the proposal was moved as assured in the winter session in December while responding to a private member bill moved by BJP MLA Mangalprabhat Lodha.

Another home department official clarified that the smoking of hookah at home or the designated areas would not be banned. “The SC has clearly stated that smoking hookah would not be allowed where food, beverages are served. The inclusion of hookahs in the COTPA will practically ban the parlours,” he said.

“The enforcement of the existing laws is more important than enacting new laws. The hookahs at 1Above and Mojo’s were in operation illegally because of a nexus between authorities and operators. It’s a welcome step that the government is planning to ban them, but the CM, who also heads the home department, should ensure strict implementation of the existing laws,” said Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, cancer surgeon with Tata Memorial Hospital and anti-tobacco crusader.

Once passed by the legislature, the amendment will need a nod from the President and it may take at least a few more months for actual implementation.