Guests at bars being videographed, women being rounded up and sent to reform homes and clubbers having to give the police their contact details: The average Mumbaiite is now afraid of hanging out at a bar.
A slew of raids in the city’s nightclubs, where unsuspecting guests have been harassed by the police, have angered people. Saral Saraf, a 25-year-old businessman, and his friends are now thinking twice about their Saturday night partying. “From getting liquor permits to raiding lounges — I think the laws are becoming a means for the police to harass people. Whether you are guilty or not, one thing is for sure you will not leave without being hassled,” said Saraf.
Last week, two popular lounges in the city, Shiro in Worli and Café Zoé at Lower Parel were raided by the police because they did not have the required licences and violated a 1960 overcrowding law where only 166 people are allowed in a 1,000-square feet restaurant. You have rights too
While the Shiro spokesperson was abroad, Café Zoé, on their Facebook page, said that they were not raided but were fined by the police, that too after the place had shut. Other bars such as Club Escape in Andheri and Royalty in Bandra were raided last month.
The raids were led by Vasant Dhoble, assistant commissioner of police (social service branch), who is currently the subject of Mumbai’s ire on social networking sites. Dhoble is probably the only police official to have trended on Twitter with a flood of tweets mocking him on Tuesday. Filmmaker Suparn Verma tweeted, “Let us all apply for anticipatory bail because at some point of time or the other, Dhoble will arrest us all. Hail Dhoble!”
Prominent city lawyers agree that while the law gives the police the right to walk into any place to check on licences, harassing guests is unwarranted and violates our rights. The police issues licences to public places under section 33 of the Bombay Police Act. Lawyers said that the police should check on these licences when a club opens.
“I think that unless there is a real problem, the police are better off pursuing genuine law and order problems instead of harassing people. These raids are only a display of authority by an overzealous officer,” said Mahesh Jethmalani, lawyer.
Dhoble said that all these allegations were baseless and he has never harassed any customers. “I simply walk up to the manager of a pub/disco during inspection and charge them if the establishment had violated the licence conditions,” said Dhoble. “After seeing me (a policeman) if they (patrons) panic and go out, what can I do?”