Rakesh Maria's diktat to Mumbai cops: Don't harass couples at public places
Mumbai’s lovebirds can now take wing without fear. In a clear indication that his officers had overplayed their hand with the raid in hotels in the Aksa and Madh Island areas early this month, which had led to the Mumbai Police becoming the object of citizens’ wrath, Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria has sought to rein in his men with a stern order.
In a big win for all those who protested against the moral policing after the story was broken by mid-day on August 8, not only has Maria effectively ordered police officials to avoid interfering with couples, both young and old, roaming together in malls, public parks and beaches, he has also asked them not to enter hotel rooms and flats to take action against couples.
The same order also tells them not to criticise or make suggestions as to how citizens should behave and what they should wear and also reminds them that they have no authority to intrude on a citizen’s privacy and individual freedom.
Nearly 40 couples had been rounded up in the August 6 raid by the Malwani police and youngsters were even made to call their parents, adding to the humiliation. They were charged with public indecency even though they were in private hotel rooms. File pic
The first three points of the order, issued on August 20, says policemen have been noticed doing these things, and the points following them ask them to refrain from doing so or face legal action.
And, to ensure that the order does not go unnoticed, Maria has not only asked for it to be put up on notice boards, but also asked senior inspectors of all police stations to ensure that the information contained in the order is drilled into their subordinates’ heads by repeating it every day during parade for seven days.
On August 6, the Malwani police, raided hotels in the Madh, Aksa and Danapani areas and booked couples, who were in private hotel rooms, for indecent behaviour in public.
A total of 64 people had been booked under Section 110 (Behaving indecently in public) of the Bombay Police Act, fined Rs 1,200 and many young couples had been forced to call their parents, adding to their humiliation. In simultaneous action, police checked guesthouses around Aksa Beach and arrested three women under the Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act (PITA).
After mid-day broke the story on August 8 and reported how a 19-year-old girl was contemplating committing suicide because of the stigma and because her parents weren’t talking to her anymore, a nationwide uproar followed.
Even the police’s explanation that the raids were conducted because residents and the local MLA had complained of prostitution being rampant in the area had failed to cut much ice with outraged citizens, hundreds of whom took to social media to vent their anger.
The Mumbai Police Commissioner had then initiated a high-level probe into the matter, which had hit a hurdle as many of the couples had registered their fake addresses with the Malwani police to avoid further embarrassment.
The Mumbai Police’s image had taken a severe beating following the incident and, thus, it comes as no surprise that one of the points of the circular orders all Mumbai Police officers and inspectors not to take any action that could malign the police’s image.
If there is any information pertaining to the Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act (PITA), the concerned officer should keep his respective Deputy Commissioner of Police in the loop before taking any step, the notice states. It goes on to warn officers of legal action if any of the points are violated.
The circular, in Marathi, issued on August 20, says:
1 Though they were told about this before, it has come to light that police officers and inspectors make unnecessary inquiries with younger and older couples roaming in public places such as Mumbai’s malls, beaches, gardens, hotels, and enter hotel rooms/ flats and take action against couples as per the Maharashtra Police laws.
2 While patrolling, police officers/ inspectors should not criticise or make suggestions as to how citizens should behave and what they should wear.
3 Such incidents have happened in Mumbai though the police don’t have the authority to interfere in a citizen’s privacy.
4 All Mumbai police officers and inspectors are ordered not to take any such action that could malign the
image of police in citizens’ minds.
5 As per the notice of the Joint Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) given before, do not take any action under Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act before taking the permission of the concerned Deputy Commissioner of Police.
6 Legal action will be taken against police officers and inspectors found to be involved in illegal activities.
7 All senior inspectors of all police stations must inform officers and inspectors under their authority of this at parade every day for seven days.
8 This circular should be displayed on the notice board.