Eateries cannot be forced to close late at night by the police: HC Madras
The Madras High Court has ruled that the police cannot force eateries to close their shutters and prevent them from doing business late at night.
Justice Krishnan Ramaswamy made the decision recently while hearing a writ petition from S Gunaraja, who wanted to invalidate a Kilpauk police order and, as a result, prevent the police from interfering with his operation of a late-night café in the city.
The right of the hotel/restaurant owner to run his business or trade is guaranteed under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution, according to the judge. Article 21 also includes the right of customers to enjoy food. If the state intends to regulate the first right, it can only do so by legislation.
These constraints must be reasonable and proportionate. There is no legal bar against running a restaurant or café late at night. The Police cannot try to force or pressure these people to close their hotels/restaurants just because they anticipate a law and order issue without such a statutory power. Customers who come to eat there are being denied their entitlement to food, according to the judge.
The judge further pointed out that, under an earlier GO, the government had allowed all stores and establishments to be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all year. As a result, the proprietors of eatery shops/hotels/restaurants are free to set their own closing times based on their convenience and the arrival of customers, subject to compliance with the conditions set forth in the notification until further orders by the government or otherwise, as per the terms and conditions of the licenses/permits issued by the State government/Municipal Corporation/Licensing Authorities. The judge stated that only the State government has the authority to set the opening and closing hours of eateries, motels, and restaurants, as well as to make laws for them.