The Calcutta High Court on Tuesday set aside a ban on the use of hookahs in bars and restaurants in Kolkata and adjoining Bidhannagar (Salt Lake) imposed by the civic authorities in the two cities.
The National Restaurant Association of India moved the high court claiming that such restaurants and bars in the two cities have not violated any provisions of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply, and Distribution) Act, 2003, of the Central government.
Noting that the West Bengal government has not framed any rules in this regard, Justice Rajasekhar Mantha observed that in the absence of any rules, the municipal corporations of Kolkata and Bidhannagar cannot pass orders against the use of hookahs in bars and restaurants having a valid licence.
The court held that the restaurants and bars do not need a separate trade licence for the use of hookahs there.
“Any direction contrary to the above, issued by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation or the Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation is illegal and bad in law,” the court held.
Justice Mantha said that these establishments are, however, required to strictly comply with the provisions of the COTP Act 2003.
Submitting that his clients are strictly complying with the rules and regulations of the COTP Act, 2003, and other applicable statutes and rules, the counsel for the association claimed that they only permit the use of tobacco, nicotine, and herbal products in the hookahs.
The court held that since there is no law banning the use of tobacco, nicotine, and herbal products in bars and restaurants, subject to rules and regulations, neither the Kolkata Municipal Corporation nor the Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation can restrict the use of hookahs.
Justice Mantha directed that his order will not prevent either the Bidhannagar Police or the Kolkata Police from ensuring that other laws are not violated by the restaurant and bar owners.