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Seek opinion of Delhi Police on opening Bars till 3 am: Delhi High Court to AAP government

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The Delhi High Court has directed the Delhi government to consult the Delhi Police on keeping bars in the National capital open till 3 a.m. as offering liquor to the public till such hours during the night raised concerns about public safety and maintaining law & order.

The Single-Judge Bench of Justice Yashwant Varma ordered the Excise Department of AAP government and the Delhi Police Commissioner to constitute a consultative group, in order to examine the feasibility of keeping establishments serving alcohol open till 3 a.m.

As per the High Court, though the Excise Act and the 2010 Rules thereunder empowered the Excise Commissioner to prescribe the operational timing of liquor vends, the same had to be understood and interpreted in light of the powers of Delhi Police to control and regulate the functioning of eating houses and places of public entertainment.

It said the bars or places where alcohol or intoxicating substances were served to the members of public would fall under the Delhi Police Act.

As per the High Court, the operation of such outlets and venues was going to have a bearing on issues such as the security of public.

The issue of maintenance of law and order demands a consultative deliberation between the Delhi Police and the authorities of the Excise Department before directives such as those incorporated in Paragraph 5.1(ii) are framed, it added.

Clause 5.1 (ii) of the New Excise Policy issued by the Delhi government allows bars in hotels, restaurants and clubs to operate till 3 a.m.

The Court further said that it was, however, not standing in the way of the Delhi government’s policy, permitting hotels, restaurants and clubs to serve alcohol till 3 a.m.

However, the policy needs to be tempered with the Delhi Police to regulate the operational timing of eating houses and places of public entertainment, as conferred under the 1978 Act.

The Counsel appearing for Delhi Police had earlier submitted that the Delhi Eating Houses Registration Regulation, 1980 were framed, in accordance with the powers conferred upon the Delhi Police Commissioner, including the authority to regulate the places of public entertainment. These regulations empower the Delhi Police to issue licences to eating houses, he added.

The Counsel contended that any place or venue where alcohol or intoxicating drugs were supplied and that fell within the ambit of a “place of public entertainment” under Section 2(l) of the Delhi Police Act, 1978, was permitted to remain open only till 1 a.m.

The Counsel for the Excise Department, on the other hand, contended that Rule 55 of the Delhi Excise Rules, 2010 empowered the Excise Commissioner to specify the hours that may be maintained by outlets and licencees for the sale of alcohol.

After examining the affidavit that was filed, the Court noted that the Delhi Police was neither consulted before the inclusion of the timing in the Excise Policy nor was its order prescribing closing time of 1 AM on December 10, 2020 taken into consideration.

Case Title: National Restaurant Association of India v. Commissioner of Police & Anr

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