Delhi High Court

Delhi High Court: Jasmeet Singh, J. did not interfere with the impugned show cause notice issued by Delhi Police to a restaurant allegedly serving alcohol beyond permissible limit of 1 am and as to why its registration should not be cancelled for such repeated acts of omission and commission. The Court adjudged Delhi Police ‘respondent’ to be the competent authority to issue show case in view of Delhi Eating Houses Registration Regulations, 1980 and Delhi Police Act, 1978.

The Petitioner firm is running a cafe & bar in the name and style of “M/s Uncultured” located at Delhi is challenging the show-cause notice cum order issued by the Additional Commissioner of Police, Licensing, Delhi (‘Respondent 2′) as FIR was lodged alleging charges under section 188 of the Penal Code, 1860 (‘IPC’) for the said restaurant being open beyond the permissible time i.e., 1 am. The show cause was issued calling upon the petitioner to show cause within 15 days from the date of receipt as to why it’s registration should not be cancelled for alleged repeated acts of omission and commission.

The petitioner contended that suspending the license of the Petitioner till disposal of the matter is arbitrary, and is in gross violation of the principles of natural justice, as the Petitioner was not even afforded the opportunity of being heard and the said decision amounted to awarding the Petitioner a punishment without any adjudication on the matter, in turn affecting its livelihood.

The respondents submitted that any place or venue where alcohol or intoxicating drugs are supplied and that fell within the ambit of a “place of public entertainment” under Section 2(l) of the Delhi Police Act, 1978, was permitted to remain open only till 1 a.m. Thus, when the petitioner company operated the said restaurant beyond the permissible limit of 1 a.m. amongst the several other complaints, the Respondents had the power to suspend the license and issue the impugned show cause notice.

It was submitted that Section 28 of the Delhi Police Act, 1978 empowers the Commissioner of Police to frame regulations for the licensing and control of places of public entertainment or public amusement and to provide for the registration of eating houses, including the power to grant a certificate of Registration to an eating house. In light of this, the Delhi Eating Houses Registration Regulations, 1980 were framed. As per Section 141(2) of the Delhi Police Act, 1978 which states that any license or permission granted under the act may be suspended or revoked by the Competent Authority if any of the terms and conditions or restrictions are infringed or evaded by the person to whom it is granted.

Reliance was placed on Union of India v. VICCO Laboratories, (2007) 13 SCC 270, wherein it was observed “Where a Show Cause notice is issued either without jurisdiction or in an abuse of process of law, certainly in that case, the writ court would not hesitate to interfere even at the stage of issuance of show cause notice. Interference at the show cause notice stage should be rare and not in a routine manner. The mere assertion by the writ petitioner that notice was without jurisdiction and/or abuse of process of law would not suffice. It should be prima facie established to be so. Where factual adjudication would be necessary, interference is ruled out.”

The Court noted that whether the petitioner violated any regulations can only be ascertained by the Competent Authority after issuing the Show Cause Notice and even though the show cause notice is in the form of an order, the pith and substance show it to be a valid show cause notice.

The Court observed that the direction of sealing the premises of the petitioner’s restaurant till disposal of the show cause notice may be harsh but will not invalidate the impugned show cause notice as the respondent has the power under section 141(2) of Delhi Police Act, 1978 to suspend the license of the petitioner. Thus, in view of Regulation 11 and 14 of the Delhi Eating Houses Registration Regulations, 1980 and Section 141(2) of the Delhi Police Act, 1978, the respondent was within their right to issue the impugned show cause notice and there is no jurisdictional error apparent in the issuance of the show cause notice.

The Court held “the court cannot entertain this petition at this stage considering the factual scenario and the background of the legal principles set out and further remarked that due to COVID 19 restaurant industry has suffered a lot and thus respondents must be sympathetic towards them.”

[Konnect Hospitality v. Commissioner of Police, 2022 SCC OnLine Del 1928, decided on 07-07-2022]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

R. K. Saini and Varun Nagrath, Advocates, for the Petitioner;

Arun Panwar, Advocate, for the Respondent.

Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

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