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The Bombay High Court has set aside orders by Maharashtra authorities suspending the licences of 47 restaurants for allegedly violating fire safety norms, saying proper procedure was not followed. Contending that they had complied with the provisions of fire saftey, the petitioners had alleged that action was taken only against those restaurants in which waitresses were employed and termed it as moral policing by officials.

fire safetyThe court quashed the impugned orders against the hotels of Thane Police Commissioner and Principal Secretary (Home) of Maharashtra because it said no opportunity had been given to hear these establishments before passing such notices. Justice Ranjit More, however, ruled that it was open to the Chief Fire Officer to issue fresh notices under Section 5 of Fire Safety Act to these establishments if he is of the opinion that they have not complied with the requirements sought under earlier notices of September 13, 2014, and accordingly take steps against them.

The judge, in the recent order, also held that it is open to the Thane Police Commissioner to proceed against these restaurants and hotels on a fresh cause of action. However, before taking any action, these establishments should be granted an opportunity of hearing, the court observed. The court, however, rejected the plea of Chief Fire Officer and Thane Municipal Corporation for a stay on its order on the ground that prima facie the hotels had complied with fire safety norms.

“Since I have come to the conclusion that the Petitioners (hotels) have made compliances of the requirements sought by the Fire Department vide its notice, it would not be appropriate to stay this order. Request for the stay is, therefore, not accepted,” said the judge. The court noted that the procedure laid down for suspending licences had not been followed by the Chief Fire Officer and instead the report was sent to Commissioner of Police whereupon the latter invoked the powers under rules and suspended the licences of these establishments.

However, under the rules, the licensing authority is authorised to suspend or cancel any licence granted under these rules for contravention of any provisions after hearing the concerned parties, the judge said.

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