Calcutta HC scraps orders banning hookah bars in Kolkata

by IANS |

Kolkata, Jan 24 (IANS) The Calcutta High Court on Tuesday scrapped the orders of Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) and Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation (BMC) imposing a blanket ban on hookah bars in Kolkata and Bidhannagar.

Scrapping the ban order, a single-judge bench of Justice Rajasekhar Mantha observed that since there is no state specific rule in the matter, it will not be illegal to run hookah bars in these two cities.

"Even the central act also has provisions on this count. Even after that the municipal corporations want to ban hookah bars, they will have to bring rules for that. Till that time there should be no police actions against the existing hookah bars," Justice Mantha observed.

On December 2, the Kolkata Municipal Corporation Mayor and the state Urban Development & Municipal Affair minister, Firhad Hakim announced the blanket ban on running of hookah bars in Kolkata.

He stated that his decision has been prompted by information received by KMC authorities that certain chemicals, which are harmful for health, were being used by certain owners of hookah bars. He also said that there was a high possibility of running the business of banned narcotics under the garb of hookah bars.

"This is another reason why a decision has been taken to put a blanket ban on hookah bars," Hakim said on December 2. Soon after that BMC also ordered a blanket ban on hookah bars in areas under its jurisdiction.

On Tuesday, Justice Mantha's bench questioned the rationality of the ban orders. "The orders were not passed following the legal provisions. What was the basis of such a ban? These hookah bars generate huge revenue. If some hookah bar owners use narcotics elements it is up to police to investigate. There is no harm if herbal products are used at the hookah bars," Justice Mantha observed.

He also said that one needs special licenses to run these hookah bars. "If smoking is done at a public place, it can be stopped. If any individual is bothered about attending the hookah bars, then this decision to ban this revenue generating sector cannot be stopped. If there is a law there these bars can be closed down. Else a new law needs to be framed for closing them," Justice Mantha said.

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