Action planned against illegal hookah bars, court told

Indo Asian News Service

New Delhi, Dec 3 (IANS) Hookah bars being illegally run from city restaurants would soon face action, the civic agencies told the Delhi High Court Monday.

"A restaurant licence does not allow hookah bars and is valid for serving food only... if they (restaurants) are running hookah bars, it is not permissible," said an advocate appearing for a civic agency, assuring speedy action against the outlaws.

The Delhi government earlier opposed the illegal bars and said that youngsters were getting attracted to these outlets despite the health hazards.

A division bench of Chief Justice D. Murugesan and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw was told by government counsel Najmi Waziri: "The government has expressed its concern over these hookah bars where youngsters are going."

The municipal authorities should "go and see how restaurants are following the provisions of licences given to them", the government said.

Waziri said that in most of these bars there was no separate area for smoking.

The court allowed a public interest litigation against the hookah bars running in restaurants illegally and decided to pass a detailed order later.

Petitioner NGO World Lung Foundation-South Asia, though its president G.R. Khatri, sought action against illegal hookah bars.

The NGO alleged that restaurants that had obtained licences only to serve food had been running hookah bars illegally.

The petition sought effective implementation of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act (COTPA) and the Prohibition of Smoking in Public Places Rules.

The civic agencies supported the petitioner and informed the court that they were preparing an action plan against restaurants running illegal hookah bars.

The court observed that "if there is any violation of COTPA by restaurants, the civic agency should taken action against them".

Advocate Lalit Bhasin, appearing for the National Restaurant Association of India, opposed a total ban on hookah bars, saying there was no breach of law if tobacco hookahs were allowed in areas specified for smokers.