Courting controversy is nothing new to assistant commissioner of police (ACP) Vasant Dhoble, but this time he has attracted a lot of heat from some heavyweights. A probe has been initiated against him by joint commissioner of police (law and order) following complaints from restaurateurs in Santacruz and Vile Parle, who have accused him of taking illegitimate action against them. One of the accusers has even asserted that Dhoble demanded he withdraw the complaint after the probe was initiated. The Vakola ACP has, in the past, taken the law into his own hands.
Confirming this, Jt CP (law and order) Sadanand Date said, “Restaurant owners complained that Dhoble had taken action under The Essential Commodities Act, which is not applicable to the case. The matter has been forwarded for inquiry to the DCP (Zone VIII).”
Last week, several restaurant owners from Santacruz and Vile Parle area knocked on the doors of Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, home minister RR Patil and member of parliament Priya Dutt. Chavan and Patil ordered commissioner of police Dr Satypal Singh to look into the matter. More than 15 restaurants owner met the top cop. Dr Singh forwarded the matter to Sadanand Date.
Date then asked the complainants to list some instances of illegal action by Dhoble, which they did. After that Date instructed DCP Namdeo Chavan (Zone VIII) to probe the matter. “We proved that Dhoble is taking illegal action on restaurants and Jt CP Date has commenced an inquiry through DCP Chavan,” said Shivji Singh, restaurateur and former Congress corporator.
According to eatery owners, Dhoble has punished more than 70 of them in the past 20 days. Rather than issuing financial penalties, he has been arresting the proprietors under The Essential Commodities Act and BMC Act. But only an additional collector, or representative not below the rank of sub-divisional officer, can take steps under The Essential Commodities Act, after being authorised by the collector.
Up in smoke
Sources say last week Dhoble raided Swagat Restaurant & Bar and found a customer smoking inside. The ACP arrested the proprietor and manager under BMC Act. He also fined the customer Rs 200. “Most of the restaurant owners apprehended by Dhoble are senior citizens. Without applying any fines, he is arresting people. I have a ‘No Smoking’ sign in my restaurant. I was suffering from malaria at the time, but was still arrested,” said Mahesh Shetty, owner of Swagat Restaurant & Bar.
The owner of Hotel Sudarshan says Dhoble visited him on Sunday night and threatened that if he did not withdraw his complaint, things could go bad for him. The 75-year-old proprietor is suffering from gangrene.
When contacted by MiD DAY, Dhoble replied, “No comment. Ask DCP Chavan since he is investigating the matter.”