Hotelier drags Mumbai top cop to High Court over 'moral policing'

Updated: Mar 18, 2019, 20:32 IST | Suraj Ojha

After mid-day test drive exposed how hotels are turning back unmarried couples, an owner has filed a petition against senior cop, alleging harassment of his guests, including a pregnant woman

Hotelier drags Mumbai top cop to High Court over 'moral policing'
Garden Guest House, from where the couples were picked up

As mid-day's February test drive around city hotels proved, moral policing of unwed couples is alive and well. While most hoteliers choose not to take any action, one of them has now approached the Bombay High Court and filed a petition against a DCP who allegedly harassed him and couples staying in his hotel, among whom was a pregnant woman.

The incident occurred in January at the Garden Guest House, which is managed by petitioner Chandravan Pancholi. According to Pancholi, DCP of Zone III, Abhinash Kumar, allegedly entered the premises of the hotel, picked up three unwed couples staying there, including a pregnant woman, and took them to the Nagpada police station.

Three unwed couples were staying at the Garden Guest House
Three unwed couples were staying at the Garden Guest House

Narrating the incident, Pancholi said, "I have been running this guest house which belongs to a friend of mine. On January 2, Kumar came to the guest house around 5.30 am with two other policemen. They spoke to the receptionist and began enquiring about the rooms. Our man informed them that five rooms were occupied of which two had families with children while the remaining three had unwed couples, all of whom were majors. They checked the visitors register as well as the photocopies of ID proof submitted by the guests. After that, they knocked on the doors of the rooms.

Chandravadan Pancholi, The hotelier
Chandravadan Pancholi, The hotelier

Assaulted receptionist
When the guests did not open the door, Pancholi claims the cops came to the reception and assaulted the receptionist and forced him to open the room with duplicate keys. The receptionist went to the rooms and requested the couples to open the doors. Cops enquired the families and allowed them to stay. However, when it came to the unwed couples, Kumar allegedly ordered them to accompany him to the Nagpada police station. He also called women constables to the guest house.

Also Read: mid-day test drive: No rooms for unwed couples in Mumbai hotels who want privacy

Pancholi further alleged that police pulled out CCTV and took custody of the DVR machines and documents related to the guest house. "Around 8:15 am, I was called to police station and told that a serious offence is being registered against me under the Provisions of the Prevention of Immoral Traffic Prevention Act (PITA). I was shocked as I'd never done any such activity and my record is clean. They showed us that they are filing the FIR, and then said the DCP will meet them at around 2:30 pm. They took the statements around 6 pm and released me and the hotel guests."

DCP Abhinash Kumar
DCP Abhinash Kumar

Pancholi, who has been running the business for over a year, said the bookings are accepted only after due identity verification, and taking copies of IDs provided by the guests. The register and the guests' details are duly maintained in compliance with all the necessary guidelines, and if anyone does not produce a valid ID, they are not allowed.

One of the guests held in the incident, who is the partner of the pregnant woman, claimed, "I'd been in that guest house with my partner for three days. Cops came and took us to the police station, where we were kept for 12 hours. I'd thought of spending some quality time with her, and now cops are taking unnecessary action against us. Despite informing the cops that she was pregnant, they kept us waiting at the police station."

'Not followed rules'
Fed up of the harassment, Pancholi has now taken his case to HC. Former assistant commissioner of police and advocate Sunil Temkar, who is representing Pancholi, told mid-day, "Since I am a retired ACP, I know which rules have not been followed by the police in this case. They've detained the couple and the hotelier even after finding nothing suspicious in the guest entries and their original documents."

Supreme Court advocate Shirish Pandey, who also appearing in the matter, said, "We filed the petition in the last week of February. We will fight against the harassment by cops. The cops have returned our DVR, but they've tampered with it."

DCP says
DCP Zone III Abhinash Kumar said, "I don't remember the incident and before I make any comment, I have to see the content of the petition." Meanwhile, Santosh Bagve, senior inspector, Nagpada police station, said, "We have taken several actions against illegal activities in our jurisdiction as people are making false allegations against us. We follow the rules. However, as of now, I have not received any intimation from their [petitioner's] side."

Also Read: mid-day test drive: Hotels association says it cannot help unmarried couples get a room

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