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Ensure fire safety, noise pollution norms are met: SC



Taking note of an incident in which several people had died when fire broke out at a rooftop pub in Mumbai a month ago, the Supreme Court has directed the City Police Commissioner to ensure, before granting a licence, that specific fire safety measures are in place and no noise pollution is caused to residents nearby from restaurants offering live band music, or from cabarets or discotheques.

The apex court issued these directions while upholding the ‘Licensing and Controlling of Places of Public Entertainment (Bangalore City) Order 2005’ issued by the Police Commissioner in 2005 to regulate places of public amusement and entertainment.

The court also said that these steps are in public interest and should be given precedence by the commissioner not only while granting licence but also during regular inspections of licensed premises. While noticing that the Licensing Order has rightly stipulated that premises with live band music, cabaret or discotheque do not cause any obstruction, inconvenience, annoyance, risk, danger or damage to the residents or passerby, the court found that there is no specific clause/condition to deal with the noise pollutionbound to be created owing to regular display and performances, causing disturbance, annoyance and inconvenience to residents nearby.

“The Commissioner shall ensure that no noise pollution is caused to residents of nearby areas owing to any of the three performances in any restaurant and that remedial steps are taken in that behalf,” the Supreme Court said.

Similarly, it said, “With a view to avert any untoward incident owing to breaking out of fire for an reasons in the licensed premises, appropriate specific safety measures must be carried out under the guidance of experts.”

Verify fire safety

The apex court also directed the commissioner to verify and ensure strict compliance of licence conditions, including all the conditions of the Licensing Order-2005 in relation to all the licensees in whose favour the licences have been issued.

It asked the commissioner to give a reasonable time for restaurant owners, who have not obtained licences so far under the Licensing Order, to secure them. Failure to obtain licences would result in closure of such restaurants after giving them notice of closure. While upholding conditions in the Licensing Order-2005, the Supreme Court said, “The conditions ensure the safety and the welfare of the general public that regularly visits such restaurants.”

“In our considered view, it is the prime duty, rather statutory duty, of the police personal/administration of every State to maintain and give precedence to the safety and the morality of the people and the State. The Karnataka Police Act and the Licensing Order-2005 are enacted keeping in view the safety and the morality of the people,” the judges observed in the order.

29 years of legal battle

The issue over power of the police to regulate restaurants offering live band music, cabaret dance and discotheques goes back to 1989 when Licensing Order-1989 was issued by the City Police Commissioner.

However, the owners of live band restaurants won in the first round of the legal battle up to the top court. This has resulted in issuance of new norms under the Licensing Order-2005. Though this order too was initially suffered a set back, it was later upheld by the High Court in 2007 and now by the apex court.

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