Herbal Hookah banned or not? Bombay high court wants state to clarify
After the incident, the state amended COTPA and imposed a blanket ban on running hookah bars in any place and also laid down a punishment of imprisonment up to three years, making serving of hookah a cognisable offence.Updated: Jun 06, 2019 02:57 IST
The Bombay high court (HC) on Monday directed the state home department to clear its stance on herbal hookah, clarifying whether the purportedly tobacco-free product is prohibited or not.
The direction came after architect-turned-restaurateur Ali Reza Abdi approached the HC, seeking a declaration that the provisions of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), 2003, are not applicable to tobacco-free hookah and authorities cannot take coercive action against him, if he starts serving the “herbal” hookah at his roof-top restaurant —“Sheesha Skylounge”.
He has complained that he was running three outlets in Mumbai under the brand name, in which more than 400 people had been employed. But for over a year now, the outlets have been shut down after the fire at two roof-top restaurants inside Kamla Mills compound on December 28, 2017, that resulted in the loss of 14 lives.
After the incident, the state amended COTPA and imposed a blanket ban on running hookah bars in any place and also laid down a punishment of imprisonment up to three years, making serving of hookah a cognisable offence.
Abdi further contended that after the amendment to COTPA, he had tendered a number of representations to various authorities, contending that tobacco-free herbal hookah was not covered under provisions of the recent amendment and no coercive action can be taken if nicotine-free herbal hookah is served at his chain. According to the petition, he was constrained to approach the court, as none of the authorities responded to his representations.
Abdi complained that cigarettes are allowed to be sold although it has been scientifically proven that smoking causes cancer, but he was being prevented from serving tobacco-free hookah at his food joints and was thus put to financial hardship and deprived of his fundamental constitutional right to do a business of his choice.
Abdi’s counsel, advocate Sujay Kantawala pointed out that herbal hookah does not contain any tobacco product and the nicotine-free product contains harmless elements like glycerine and sugar.
The bench of justices Ranjit More and Bharati Dangre has posted the petition for further hearing on June 10.