On Saturday, a female cop’s moral policing act became the cause of death for a 17-year-old SSC student from Kalina, Santacruz. The girl was spotted with her male friend by the constable and was reprimanded for not studying for her ongoing SSC exams.
After the girl was escorted home by the constable, neighbours began alleging that she might be involved in a prostitution racket ruining her and her family’s image, forcing her to take the extreme step.
The said constable was part of 205 beat marshals, inducted into the police force by the late RR Patil who was then the state Home Minister and police chief Rakesh Maria with the agenda of helping women, children and senior citizens in distress. This constable, however, knowingly or unknowingly became the reason for the teenager’s death.
This is not an isolated case. Mumbai Police has been in the news for moral policing in the past, whether it was for stopping kissing couples or arresting them for walking hand in hand on the streets.
Former police commissioner Dr Satyapal Singh, who is now a BJP MP from Baghpat in Uttar Pradesh, went on record saying, ‘On the one hand you want to have a promiscuous culture and on the other hand you want a safe and secure environment’.
In September 2014, 24-year-old Runcil Rebello was sitting outside Oberoi Mall in Goregaon (East) with his arm around his girlfriend, Cheryl Godinho’s waist. The couple was accosted by a group of four police officials from Dindoshi police station, saying they had been behaving ‘indecently’. They were charged under the Bombay Police Act and the woman was fined R1,200. Police justified their actions, saying they were ‘carrying out the commissioner’s orders’.
Following mass criticism from the media, Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria then went on record and clarified that Mumbai Police would not indulge in any moral policing. However, it seems the message is yet to reach the junior ranks.