The High Court of Madras has held that the occupation of hotel room by an unmarried couple is not a criminal offence.
"Apparently, there are no laws or regulations forbearing unmarried persons of opposite sex to occupy hotel rooms, as guests. While live-in-relationship of two adults is not deemed to be an offence, terming the occupation of hotel room by an unmarried couple, will not attract a criminal offence. While that being so, the extreme step of sealing the premises on the ground that an unmarried couple were occupying the premises, is totally illegal in the absence of any law prohibiting the same", held Justice M S Ramesh while quashing the sealing of a hotel run by the petitioner.
The petitioner in this case was running a service apartment in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. On June 25, a search was conducted in the premises of the apartment by a team from the office of the Tahsildar, Peelamedu police station. During the course of the search, certain liquor bottles were found inside one of the rooms occupied by the guests and in one room two adults, male and female, who were not married to each other were staying. The premises was sealed by the team without any written order and this prompted the petitioner to file the petition.
The counsel for the petitioner alleged there was no justification on the part of the respondents in not giving them an opportunity to put forward their objection and by sealing the premises without any order being served on the petitioner is a violation of the principles of natural justice. He also submitted that the action has been taken merely on the basis of the viral news spread on social media.
The Additional Public Prosecutor appearing for the respondents submitted that the Tahsildar had informed the Inspector of Police of the Peelamedu police station that petitioner's premises had not obtained Form 'D' and without details of the guests in the Booking Registers, are permitting illegal activities by the guests. And also the neighboring womenfolk requested action to be taken against the petitioner.
Various reports both in social as well as print media were also produced before the court by the respondents which predominantly indicated that the petitioner had permitted unmarried couples to stay in the hotel rooms which has been termed as immoral.The court said, the extreme step of sealing the premises was taken in view of the viral news spread in the social and other media.
The Government could not give any answer to the Court's question as to how occupation of a hotel room by an unmarried couple violated the law.
"When a specific question was put to the respondents as to what could be the illegality in permitting unmarried couples to stay in the hotel rooms, the respondents had no answer to the same", observed Justice Ramesh.
The respondents also stated that the action of sealing was initiated because certain liquor bottles were also found in the room occupied by the guests and since the premise does not possess a license to serve or sell liquor. The petitioner said that they had not served or sold liquors in the premises and such bottles could have been brought by the guests themselves. The Court said it is unable to comprehend as to how it could be considered as impermissible if the petitioner had not sold or served any liquor to the guests and the guests had consumed the liquor brought by themselves.
The court noted that the Tamil Nadu Liquor (Possession for Personal Consumption) Rules, 1996, permits any individual person can possess 4.5 Litres of IMFS; 4.5 Litres for Foreign liquor; 7.8 Litres of Beer; 9 Litres of Wine, at a given point of time, within the State. Hence, the consumption of liquor by the guests in the petitioner's premises cannot be termed as illegal.
The Court also emphasized that the entire episode of sealing the premises is in total violation of the principles of natural justice. The court said,
" In the background of the present case that the alleged immoral activities in the club may not be an offence, it would have been just and proper for the respondents called for explanation, before taking any coercive steps against the petitioner."
When the learned Additional Public Prosecutor submitted that the premises did not possess building license in 'Form D' of the Revenue Department and the Booking registers were not properly maintained, the court said, "Assuming that such lacuna were discovered by the authorities, these can only termed as infirmities, which required to be addressed by calling for explanation from the petitioner and thereafter take further course of action, thereby adhering to the principles of natural justice."
The court while allowing the petition, directed the respondent to de-seal the petitioner's premises within a period of two days from the date of receipt of the order.
Case Details:Title : My preferred Transformation and Hospitality Private Limited v. The District Collector & Ors.Case No: W.P.No.31230 of 2019Quorum : Justice M.S. RameshAppearances : Adv. K.Chandrasekaran (for petitioner) Adv. C. Iyyapparaj (for respondents) Additional Public Prosecutor(for respondents)
Click here to download the Order