COVID-19: Restaurants, bars urge HC to direct Delhi govt, police not to interfere with sale of herbal hookahs

New Delhi: Several restaurants and bars Wednesday urged the Delhi High Court to direct the AAP government and police not to interfere with the sale of herbal flavoured hookahs or take coercive steps against them.

The plea was opposed by the Delhi government which said use of hookah, be it with or without tobacco, in all public places including hotels, restaurants, eatery houses, bars, pubs and discotheques, in the national capital is strictly prohibited as use or sharing of hookah may further increase spread of COVID-19.

Justice Rekha Palli listed the matter for further hearing on September 20 as the counsel for petitioner restaurants and bars said he would file an additional affidavit.

They (Delhi government) have problem with shared hookah which could lead to spread of COVID-19. If 40 people are using 10 hookahs, it is a problem, the court said, adding that this is an entirely different situation.

Senior advocate Sandeep Sethi, representing the petitioner entities, said as long as the restaurants undertake not to use nicotine in hookah, they cannot be prohibited from carrying out their businesses.

Delhi government standing counsel Santosh Kumar Tripathi referred to the August 3, 2020 order passed by the Health Department which has 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.

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 Joint Commissioner of Police (Licensing Unit) prohibiting and excluding the sale or service of herbal flavoured hookahs in restaurant/ bar being run by them.

The pleas said the petitioners are serving herbal hookahs for which no licence is required as they are totally without tobacco but the police is still conducting raids, seizing equipments and issuing challans.

It sought to declare that definition of "smoking" under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), does not cover herbal flavoured hookahs and to direct the authorities not to take any extreme step of suspension or cancellation of registration certificate of the petitioners. PTI

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