Commissioner cannot delegate quasi-judicial power to health officers: High Court

The Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) suffered a setback with the Karnataka High Court quashing the orders passed by its health officers asking hookah bar owners in Bangalore to close shop by cancelling their trade licences.

In his verdict on a batch of petitions filed by hookah bar owners challenging BBMP's April 30, 2011 order cancelling their trade licences, Justice S. Abdul Nazeer said that health officers had no power to pass the order as such powers were vested with the Commissioner, and the Commissioner had no right to delegate such quasi-judicial power to the health officers.

Show cause

The court pointed out that though the law empowers the Commissioner to suspend or completely revoke the licence, such action can be initiated only after an enquiry. Opportunity has to be given to the licensee to show cause the matter.

The BBMP had contended that the health officers, empowered to issue the licence, also had the power to cancel it and that the Commissioner had delegated this power to them.

Action under the law

Meanwhile, the court reserved liberty to the Commissioner to take action against the petitioner hookah bar owners in accordance with the law.

However, it has left open the petitioners' contention that BBMP, under the KMC Act, has no jurisdiction to take action insofar as hookah service, which contains tobacco, falls under the provisions of the Cigarette and other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act 2003.

The petitioners, Concepts and More, and others, had moved the court after the health officers raided their premises and seized hookah paraphernalia.

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