The police cannot force eateries to close down the shutters and restrain them from doing their business late in the night, the Madras High Court has ruled.
Justice Krishnan Ramaswamy gave the ruling recently while allowing a writ petition from S Gunaraja, who sought to quash an order of the Kilpauk police and consequentially forbear the police from interfering with his running an eatery in the city during late night hours.
The judge pointed out that the right of the hotel/restaurant owners to run his business or trade is guaranteed under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution.
The right of the customers to consume food, is also a part of Article 21. If the State wants to regulate the first right, then the restriction can only be through a law. Such restrictions must be reasonable and proportional. Admittedly there is no legal prohibition to operate a restaurant/eatery late at night. Without such a statutory power, the Police cannot try to force or coerce these persons to shut their hotels/restaurants simply because they anticipate a law and order issue. By doing so they are depriving the right to food of the customers who come to eat there, the judge said.
The judge also pointed out that by virtue of an earlier GO , the government had permitted all the shops and establishments to keep open for 24×7 all days of the year.
Hence, the owners of the eatery shops/hotels/restaurants are at liberty to fix closing timings on their own depending upon their convenience and arrival of customers subject to the compliance of the conditions prescribed in the notification until further orders by the government or otherwise, as per the terms and conditions of the license/permits issued by the State government/Municipal Corporation/Licensing Authorities.
The State government alone is empowered to fix opening and closing timings of eatery shops/hotels/restaurants and to make rules thereof, the judge said.
The State government shall ensure smooth functioning of the eatery shops/hotels/restaurants during the night hours so that the private employees, watchmen and guards, taxi drivers, young delivery boys working night shift employees and others can get food at odd hours.