A bench of Justice Shashi Kant Gupta and Justice Shamim Ahmad, took cognizance of a letter written by a student of LL.B. (Integrated), Faculty of Law, University of Lucknow agitating the cause relating to spread of Corona Virus through Hookah Bars, and sought remedial action by prohibiting Bars, Restaurants and Cafes from serving Hookahas, in the State of Uttar Pradesh.
The Court converted the letter into suo motu Public Interest Litigation No. 716 of 2020 and directed the Chief Secretary to show cause as to why the petition for writ not be accepted as prayed. In this regard notice was sent to the Chief Secretary through E-Mail as well as Fax but despite the said order, no response came from the State Government.
The Court in its order dated 27.08.2020 observed:
Hookah is a single or multi-stemmed instrument used for smoking various flavored substances such as tobacco for centuries and is popular in the Indian subcontinent. Prima facie smoking has emerged as an independent risk factor not only for transmission but also COVID-19 severity, similarly, hookah smoking is also prima facie an ideal mode to transmit and facilitate the spread of the contagion through shared use. The communal nature of water pipe smoking means that a single mouth piece and hose are often shared between users, especially in social settings. The difficult-to-clean long pipes and a cold water reservoir makes them ideal for corona virus transmission. Further, hookah smoke contains several hazardous chemicals in addition to tobacco that may injure the respiratory lining, exposing the smoker to viral infections, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases and the coronavirus is no exception. Infection can be transmitted through hookah by waterpipe smoking. It has also come to our notice that few countries have already placed restrictions on hookah use amid the pandemic. It may not be out of place to mention here that in one such incident at the Jind Village at Haryana, hooka sharing resulted in a chain of covid infections and as a result the Village had to be sealed while imposing a ban on hookah smoking. Taking the recent WHO advice on COVID-19 and hookah use, it is desirable that in wider public interest hookah or waterpipe smoking should be regulated/prohibited during the present crisis to ensure restriction of COVID-19 transmission through hookah smoking.
In view of the above, we issue a direction to the Chief Secretary State of Uttar Pradesh not to permit the Bars, Restaurants & Cafes to serve Hookahs until further orders of this Court, with immediate effect.
The Court has posted the matter for 30.09.2020