The next time you're enjoying a drink at your favourite watering hole, don't be surprised if the cops ask to see your ID — it's just Mumbai Police on the hunt for underage drinkers.
In an indication of just how rampant underage drinking is in the city, the Social Service branch last week found 91 minors consuming booze at bars across the city — on the same day. No action was taken then, as the cops were merely carrying out a survey, but Mumbai Police is now set to crack down on bars that do not turn away drinkers under 18.
“The survey had very alarming results. From next week, we will start booking errant establishments under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act. The Juvenile Aid Protection Unit (JAPU) will conduct the operations,” said DCP Pravin Patil (Enforcement branch).
The police said the survey was conducted after the Social Service Branch received several complaints about minors drinking at pubs and bars. A high-level meeting was conducted by senior officers, who decided to first study the issue with the help of a field survey. “In a single day, our team found 91 minors consuming alcohol at various establishments. We warned the bar management and sent the minors home,” said an official.
According to sources, most of the minors were found at pubs in the belt between Andheri and Bandra, and at south Mumbai. From the coming week, JAPU teams will carry out regular raids at bars and ask drinkers to show their ID proof. If anyone is found to be a minor, they will be sent home, but a far worse fate awaits the management.
“Action will be taken against the establishment and not the minor. Serving alcohol to a minor is a cognisable offence,” said Patil.
According to the law, the legal drinking age in Maharashtra is 21 for beer and 25 for hard liquor. However, this particular crackdown will target only under-18 drinkers. Bars that continue to serve booze to underage revellers will be charged under Section 25 (giving intoxicating liquor or narcotic drug or psychotropic substance to juvenile or child) of the Juvenile Justice Act, which provides for imprisonment for up to three years, along with a fine.
Patil added, “Ideally, pubs and bars should first check the ID proof of youngsters to see if they are over 18. If they are minors, they should not be allowed inside. If they are allowed inside, liquor should not be served to them.”
'Not moral policing'
Some cops, however raised concerns about how the public would view this exercise, particularly after the hue and cry raised by the recent moral policing incident when the Malwani police carried out raids at hotels and charged couples with public indecency. mid-day had broken the story with the front-page report 'Couples picked up from hotel rooms, charged with public indecency' (August 8).
“We will only ask people to show us their ID, to see if they are of age. Some people might ask us why we are doing this, but we only want to curb youngsters from drinking illegally. This is not moral policing. It is a good move, as many youngsters are spoiling their lives by consuming alcohol,” said a cop who did not wish to be named.
High risk zones
South Mumbai, Bandra, Andheri
The legal age for drinking in Maharashtra
Age no bar? Think again
>> In Maharashtra, the legal drinking age is 21 for beer and 25 for hard liquor
>> The Delhi government is mulling on a proposal to bring down the drinking age from 25 to 21 for beer, although it will remain 25 for hard liquor
>> Goa, Haryana, Pondicherry, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have more relaxed norms, with 18 set as the minimum age for drinking
>> Gujarat, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Lakshadweep have imposed a total ban on alcohol consumption
'Must not turn into moral policing'
I have an 18-year-old daughter, Alia and a 15-year-old son, Omar. I am against the drinking age limit being 25. That being said, this is the law and so the police should adhere to it and crack down on whoever is not following it. But it has to be different from moral policing – where we ask women in pubs why they are there, or why they are wearing what they are wearing. The lines may get blurred; it’s the venues that can avoid further issues by enforcing this law.
— Pooja Bedi, Former actress