Nagpur: The ongoing raids on hookah parlours in city by crime branch will continue though there is no specific law barring use of hookah without tobacco. The crime branch has so far conducted 17 raids in less than a fortnight. Four parlours had to pay the penalty levied by the court for violation of the Bombay Police Rules, 1956, slapped for contravening Supreme court guidelines.
Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of advertisement and regulation of trade and commerce, production, supply and Distribution) Act, 2003, and also Prohibition of Smoking in Public Places Rules, 2008, having no mention of tobacco-free hookahs, police had to resort to Section 33 of the Bombay Police Rules, 1956, to initiate challan action against owners. The owners are expected to appear before a court later that can levy a fine upto Rs 2,000. Police department claimed parlour owners were facing action for not following guidelines laid down by the apex court in maintaining smoking zones where hookah can be smoked.
Maharashtra home department had declared last year to frame a policy guidelines to regulate hookah parlours but is yet to do so. This is despite stormy debates over hookah on the floor of the assembly. Even during 2015 winter session, state government had assured to frame the rules pertaining to hookah parlours within a short time but failed to do so.
A delegation of hookah parlour owners are learnt to have met the city police top brass and DCP, crime, Ranjan Kumar Sharma asking them to discontinue the raids in absence of the licensing provisions. It is learnt the delegation said they were ready to seek permission or licence to operate hookah parlours but were unable to do so due to lack of specific law.
Authorities of Food and Drug Administration (FDA), who earlier accompanied police on hookah parlour raids, said they stopped taking any action in absence of any provision of law. A senior FDA official said Food Safety and Transaction Act, 2006, does not specify anything about hookah. “FDA can only act on something that can be consumed or swallowed, not about something that is inhaled,” he said. “There is a demand for licence from FDA by the hookah parlour owners but there is no law that provides for it,” he said.
FDA has been receiving complaints from public about hookah parlour but has now withdrawn from ruling from courts that negated their authority to take action.Shravan Hardikar, municipal commissioner, too said he would find out if there was any provision in civic laws that could be applied to stop hookah parlours.
City police chief SP Yadav said their action was as per public demand. “There is a pressure of society to take action on hookah parlours though there is no specific laws regulating the business. We are taking action for violation of supreme court guidelines,” he said. DCP, crime, Sharma said owners were free to approach the court if they feel wronged. “We have to keep up the raids as public are against the parlours,” he said.