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Bombay high court set aside a cancellation of a performance licence issued to a suburban restaurant, observing that the deputy police commissioner who cancelled it could not have relied on crimes registered against its owner for alleged offence of obscenity, unless it resulted in conviction.

When an FIR is pending it can’t be used to cancel the licence. State’s 2019 government resolution stipulates counsel R D Soni for Geeta Lunch Home which had petitioned the HC to challenge the cancellation of its licence. Soni said the police had principally relied on a FIR against the establishment’s owner in June 2017 under the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act 1986.

Justice S K Shinde in his order, “It is settled law that until held guilty, a person should be treated as innocent, and therefore, mere registration of crime would not furnish ground to cancel licence.”

Government Resolution of January 2019 said mere pendency of prosecution itself could not be a ground for cancelling the licence so long as the licence-holder himself or his agent or servant is convicted of the said offence.

The HC noted that the licensing authority had also not given the restaurant owner a hearing and directed that the authorities first give a hearing and then decide.

The police commissioner had granted a performance licence in 2004 under the Rules called “Rules for Licensing and Controlling Places of Public Amusement (other than Cinemas) and Performances for Public Amusement including Melas, Tamashas), 1960”.

The DCP had in 2016 issued the establishment a Show Cause Notice to show cause why performance licence should not be cancelled for alleged violation of its licence conditions. He did not respond and on 20.12.2016, the performance licence was cancelled. The restaurant challenged the order before the Principal Home Secretary (Appeal And Security) Maharashtra and pending appeal, the cancellation was stayed.

The appeal was decided without hearing from the restaurant on 22.3.2018 and the DCP’s cancellation order, upheld. A review of the confirmation was also dismissed and thus the matter landed before the HC.

Justice Shinde heard Soni and additional government pleader P P Pujari and was told that since March 2018 the restaurant is “not playing musical instruments, Orchestra” at his establishment.

The HC directed the owner to be given a hearing on November 25 for the show cause notice and then the DCP “shall pass appropriate order in accordance with law.”


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