The order was passed by Justice Yashwant Varma on a petition by the National Restaurant Association of India which sought to restrain the Delhi Police from interfering with the operation and running of restaurants and bars till 3 am in terms of the excise policy.
The court observed that while it does not intend to stand in the way of the excise department framing a policy, the same has to be harmonised with the police’s authority to regulate the operational timing of eating houses and places of public entertainment.
Bars or for that matter any establishment where liquor and intoxicating substances are served and to which members of the public may be admitted would clearly fall within the ambit of the above. Since the operation of those outlets and venues would undoubtedly have a bearing on issues such as security of the public, and the issue of maintenance of law and order, it would not only have been expedient but the law itself would mandate a joint and consultative deliberation between the authorities … are framed, said the court in its order dated June 3.
Viewed in that backdrop it would be expedient to direct the Excise Commissioner as well as the Commissioner of Police to constitute a consultative group which may examine the feasibility of extending the operational timing of places of public entertainment up to 3:00 A.M, ordered the court which asked that the exercise to be completed within two weeks and sought a report.
Delhi Police, in response to the plea, stated that any place or venue where liquor or intoxicating drugs are supplied, which would fall within the ambit of a place of public entertainment and would include “eating houses”, is permitted to remain open and operate till 1 am.
It was contended that it would be imprudent to increase their operational timing up till 3 am as the issue of opening of bars, etc has an indelible connection with the issue of public order.
Delhi Government submitted that Delhi Excise Rules empower the Excise Commissioner to specify the hours that may be maintained by outlets and licensees for the sale of liquor.
Justice Varma noted that Delhi Police was not consulted before the inclusion of the prescription concerning timing in the present excise policy and observed that it would have been expedient for the excise authorities as well as the Delhi government to have elicited their views before holding out that bars would be permitted to operate till 3 am.
The petitioner association contended that any interference with its operational hours as allowed by the excise authorities was in violation of Delhi excise policy and its fundamental rights concerning the freedom to trade.
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