A Single Judge Bench of the Hon’ble Madras High Court comprising Honourable Justice M. S. Ramesh decided on the legality of sealing of premises where an unmarried couple were residing by the local police authorities with the assumption of illegality being made by the local police authorities on questionable grounds.
The facts of the instant case are that the petitioner is an assignee of the Lease Deed with the fifth Respondent, and he is running certain premises as service apartments. The premises run by the petitioner were subject to a search by the local police authorities. During the course of such search, it is stated that certain liquor bottles were found inside one of the rooms occupied by the guests, and an unmarried adult couple in another room as occupants. The premises came to be sealed without a written order, prompting the filing of the Writ Petition in Madras High Court.
The Counsel for the Petitioner argued that the sealing of the premises was in violation of Principles of Natural Justice as the petitioner was not heard and that action was taken merely on the basis of viral news spread on social media. Whereas, the Counsel for the state argued that the local police had obtained information about the absence of “Form ‘D’” for the petitioner’s premises, and illegal activities were permitted without taking booking details of the guests. The neighbouring womenfolk were said to have raised objections, which prompted the action to be taken by the police authorities.
The court took the view that, merely because unmarried couples were permitted to stay together on the premises, it could not be considered to have been an illegal act on that ground alone. Thus, the court stated that,
“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”
With respect to the Respondent’s arguments that the possession of liquor by the guests was illegal, in view of the lack of license to serve or sell liquor on the premises, the court made reference to the updated Tamil Nadu Liquor (Possession for Personal Consumption) Rules, 1996 to find that the possession of liquor was not in illegal quantities.
Additionally, with respect to the absence of “Form ‘D’” and booking details of guests, the court termed these as “infirmities” which could be inquired into and the Petitioner asked for an explanation, and further action taken in accordance with Principles of Natural Justice.
Thus, this case where violations of moral standards held by a few neighbours was correctly not equated to the basis for legal action as the Hon’ble Madras High Court ordered the de-sealing of the premises.
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Link to judgment: Mypreferred Transformation v. The District Collector, Coimbatore