The Supreme Court of India ruled that a three-year-old ban that prohibits people from smoking hookah even in designated smoking areas is unlawful and not permissible in law.
However, the court made it clear that ashtrays, lighters, match sticks and other such things designed to facilitate smoking must not be provided in any public place. Justice Ranjan Gogoi who was overseeing the court proceedings on the matter, remarked that the ban on smoking is only applicable to public places and not to spaces designated for smoking.
Several restaurants in Delhi were forced to shut down their hookah bar following a prohibitory order by the Delhi High Court which opined that it was unlawful for restaurant to double up as “hookah bar” without permission. Most of these hookah bars were located in Greater Kailash I, Greater Kailash II, Connaught Place, South Extension, Defense Colony and New Friends Colony.
Dismissing Bombay Municipal Corporation’s argument that hookahs cannot be allowed in public places, the apex court bench led by Justice Gogoi said that the law cannot be misused to justify an lawful ban on smoking hookahs in public places.
Prior to this, the BMC imposed a ban on the “use of any apparatus designed to facilitate smoking”.
“The effect of the added words (read: BMC ban) is that a hookah can’t be provided by the hotel, restaurant or airport and it is an apparatus designed to facilitate smoking,” said the SC, adding the BMC’s ban was a violation of the Cigarette Act.
“The rules must be read harmoniously… What is expressly allowed in one rule, cannot be taken away by another,” it said.