Chennai: Observing that a live-in relationship of two adults is not deemed to be an offence, the Madras High Court has said terming the occupation of a hotel room by such unmarried couples will not attract a criminal offence.
"Apparently, there are no laws or regulations forbearing unmarried persons of the opposite sex to occupy hotel rooms as guests," Justice M S Ramesh said in a recent order.
He made the observations while directing authorities to de-seal a hire service apartment in Coimbatore, which was closed after a police and revenue team conducted a search following complaints of alleged immoral activities and found an unmarried couple and some liquor bottles in a room there in June this year.
While live-in-relationship of two adults was not deemed to be a crime, the occupation of hotel room by an unmarried couple would not attract an offence, the Judge said.
While that being so, the extreme step of sealing the premises on the ground that an unmarried couple was occupying the premises is totally illegal in the absence of any law prohibiting the same, he said.
According to the petitioner, the "My preferred Transformation and Hospitality Private Limited" of Gurgaon in Haryana, it was running Hire Service apartment at the premises in Coimbatore.
A search was conducted on the premises by a team from the office of the Tahsildar and local police on June 25 last. The team found liquor bottles in one of the rooms occupied by the guests and in one room two adults who were not married were staying.
The premises came to be sealed by the team without any written order against which the present petition was filed.
The petitioner contended that there was no justification on the part of the authorities in not giving them an opportunity to put forth their objections. Sealing of the premises without any order was a violation of the principles of natural justice.
The petition said such an action has been taken based on the viral news spread on the social media about the premises. The prosecution said the petitioner's premises had not obtained Form D and without details of the guests in the booking registers, illegal activities by the guests were permitted.
In view of the objections from the neighbouring womenfolk, action was taken against the petitioner.
Justice Ramesh said it was not in dispute that the petitioner had not been put on notice prior to the sealing of the premises and no explanation was called for.
Particularly, in the background of the present case that alleged immoral activities in the premises may not be an offence, it would have been just and proper for the respondents to be called for explanation before taking any coercive steps against the petitioner, the judge said.
"The entire episode of sealing the premises is in total violation of the principles of natural justice," he said.
Noting that the state law allowed possession of stipulated quantities of liquor by an individual, the Judge said the consumption of liquor by the guests on the petitioners premises cannot also be termed as illegal.