Restaurants, bars move HC over ‘harassment’ for serving liquor beyond 1 a.m.

The “police harassment” has affected their business, say owners of bars and restaurants serving liquor.

The “police harassment” has affected their business, say owners of bars and restaurants serving liquor. | Photo Credit: R.V. Moorthy

The National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) has moved the Delhi High Court complaining that the Delhi police were “harassing and obstructing” restaurants and clubs in the Capital from serving liquor beyond 1 a.m.

The association, whose members run restaurants and bars across Delhi, said the Delhi police was “prohibiting and preventing” restaurants and bars from operating beyond 1 a.m., in contravention of the Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22.

BJP’s objection

Senior advocate Vinay Kr. Garg and advocate P.S. Singal, representing the restaurant association, stated that initially after the commencement of the excise policy, various restrictions due to COVID-19 were persisting in the Capital, which effectively continued till January 2021. But once the restrictions were lifted, NRAI members began opening their restaurants and bars till 3.00 a.m. in a routine manner with all the requisite licences and did not face any objection from any police officer.

Since the launch of the new excise policy in November last year, the BJP has been campaigning against the Delhi government over various issues in the policy. Earlier this month, Delhi BJP spokesperson Praveen Shankar Kapoor wrote to Police Commissioner Rakesh Asthana requesting him not to accept the government’s proposal to allow bars and liquor-serving restaurants to open till 3 a.m., claiming “it is not in public interest”.

According to the petition, “after some persons affiliated with political establishments approached” the Delhi police, its officers started visiting restaurants, pubs and bars with “oral directives of shutting down the operations by 1 a.m. instead of 3 a.m.”

The plea added that the “illegal action” by the Delhi police officers is being done with “dishonest intentions” because the police “refused to issue any challan or give anything in writing.”

“The police officials forcibly get the restaurants and bars closed and even threaten the petitioners and their staff if they try to reason out with them,” the plea said.

No response was received from the Delhi police on the matter till the time the story was published.

The High Court has scheduled the case’s hearing for May 24.

‘Unambiguous’ clauses

The association pointed out that the new excise policy “unambiguously” lays down that the bars in hotels, restaurants and clubs are allowed to operate till 3 a.m. “This policy also permitted all the hotels, restaurants and clubs to serve liquor till 3 a.m. to create a conducive environment, improve the conditions for smooth operations, sync with the present-day business and social perspectives and to align the timings of operation of bars at par with the neighbouring cities,” the NRAI said in its petition.

The association stated that to take advantage of the extended opening hours allowed by the new policy, its members had invested a huge amount of money for the licence fees, which had been substantially hiked.

It went on to add that the “harassment” by the police has not only disrupted their business but also deprived them of the hard-earned goodwill of their business and depleted their business by affecting their source livelihood.

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Printable version | May 23, 2022 2:27:38 am |