Note on the Karnataka Hookah Bar judgement in Diamond Enterprises v. State of Karnataka

September 11, 2015

In the judgment of Diamond Enterprises vs. State of Karnataka, dated September 9, 2015, the High Court states that there is no requirement for a license for providing hookah in the smoking zone to the customers in a restaurant. This is against the government circular of 2013 that states that as per sections 2, 3 and 4 of Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003 (“COTPA”), while issuing licenses to hotels, bakeries, food stalls among others and such other establishments, it should be seen that as per section 5, the public notice at point of sale is mandatorily displayed.


The notice also states that the cafes, bars and restaurants should take measures to prohibit hookah use and such condition should be included in the licence conditions. This was issued to all municipal corporations and all other departments and authorities.


The judgement mentioned above, however, implies that the COTPA includes hookah as a form of tobacco and therefore its use is legal and there is no need for any additional licence for the same. The BBMP, thereafter, insists that terms and conditions of the COTPA that need to be complied with by the restaurant owners even if hookah is served in the separate smoking zones.


This was held in BBMP & Ors. v. M/S Mahtani Ventures, decided on February 27, 2013, in which the Division Bench of the Karnataka High Court upheld an order of cancellation of trade license by the BBMP of a hookah bar on the ground that it had violated the terms and conditions of the trade license which related to serving of hookah.