The Delhi High Court on Friday asked the Delhi Government to reconsider its decision of not allowing sale and service of “Herbal Hookah” in Delhi. The single-judge bench of Justice Rekha Palli was hearing a batch of petitions filed by various restaurants, bars and lounges.
Issuing notice, Justice Palli said, “It is expected that the Delhi Disaster Management Authority will consider this aspect on an urgent basis.”
Advocate Nandani Sahni, appearing for the petitioners, submitted that in the premises run by the petitioners, individual hookahs are being provided to customers, and the petitioners have filed an affidavit stating the same, furthermore, only 5-10% of customers demand hookahs.
Sahni said if the Delhi Police has restarted the use of breathalyzers to detect drunk driving, there is no reason to deny permission to petitioners, whose livelihoods depended on it.
Advocate Sahni concluded by contending that Delhi Lounge and Bar Pvt Ltd., the petitioner in W.P (C):13640/2019, is still continuing to provide the services of hookah without any interference from the respondents, hence discriminating against the petitioners.
‘We’re wearing masks in cars, how can we allow hookah be served in bars?’
Advocate Santosh Kumar Tripathi, appearing on behalf of the Government of NCT of Delhi, opposed the submissions made on behalf of the petitioner:
“Entire Delhi will pay a price for opening of Hookah bars. We’re having our masks on while we’re driving in the car, sitting alone. How can we allow Hookah to be served in bars?”
Advocate Tripathi relied on the order of DDMA dated August 3, 2020, whereby, it had prohibited the use of Hookah, with or without Tobacco to be served at restaurants and bars, to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Justice Rekha Palli:
“When the Delhi Government is allowing other activities and the petitioners are willing to undertake, then you have to take a decision. Livelihood also has to be balanced.”
On the previous date of hearing, the court had granted time to petitioners to file a copy of DDMA’s order dated August 3, 2020. The next hearing will be on September 30.
The separate petitions were filed by Breath Fine Lounge and Bar, TOS, R High Speedbar and Lounge, Verandah Moonshine and Sixth Empirica Lounge in West Punjabi Bagh, challenging the order of the JCP (Licensing Unit) prohibiting and excluding the sale or service of herbal-flavoured hookahs in restaurants/bars being run by them.
The pleas said the petitioners are serving herbal hookahs for which no license is required as they are total without tobacco but the police are still conducting raids, seizing equipment, and issuing challans.
The pleas have sought to declare that definition of ”smoking” under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), does not cover herbal flavored hookahs and to direct the authorities not to take any extreme step of suspension or cancellation of registration certificate of the petitioners.
The Delhi government order passed on August 3, 2020, by the Health Department observed that in public places, use and sharing of hookah with and without tobacco (herbal hookah) may further increase spread of coronavirus.
“Now, therefore, in exercise of powers conferred by the Delhi Epidemic Diseases, COVID-19, Regulations, 2020 under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, the use of hookah (with or without tobacco, that is, herbal hookah, water pipes and other hookah like devices) in all public places including hotels, restaurants, eatery houses, bars, pubs, discotheques, etc, of the NCT of Delhi is strictly prohibited with immediate effect, for the purpose of prevention and control of the outbreak of epidemic disease namely COVID-19 in NCT of Delhi,”
-the Delhi government order said.