The Bombay high court on Friday stayed the controversial decision of the police department to post constables in restaurants and bars in the city and in neighbouring Thane, terming it "not in public interest".
The division bench of NH Patil and Anuja Prabhudesai admitted a bunch of petitions filed by restaurant and bar owners opposing the decision to post two constables each in these establishments from 1 pm to 1 am.
The final hearing on the petitions would be held in due course. According to police, the decision aimed at ensuring that waitresses are not employed beyond the stipulated time. The constables were posted, on a trial basis, in suburban Chembur and in Thane.
A total of 36 petitions have been filed against this decision, by Barkur Shetty, owner of Prakash Hindu Hotel (Rukhmini Palace) in Thane and others.
Advocate Veena Thadani, his lawyer, argued, "The policemen's presence creates fear in our patrons' minds and this in turn affects our business." She also argued that the policemen occupy a table from 1pm to 1.30am. "This is not a police state that such impositions should be allowed," she contended.
Public prosecutor S K Shinde defended the decision saying that this was in public interest.
During the last hearing, the high court had said such a deployment was a sheer waste of time and talent of policemen.
"They (police) should be imaginative and should not be made to sit under a tree doing nothing. If you (State) post two policemen outside 36 restaurants, then you are losing 72 policemen. They can be deployed at railway and bus stations or can crack some criminal cases which are on the rise," the HC had said.
The high court had noted that the police department was facing a shortage of personnel otherwise.
According to the police, illegal activities go on in bars and presence of policemen on the premises, could curb them.
Prosecutor Shinde had also argued that this measure was being implemented only on an experimental basis.
But Thadani argued the waitresses themselves had never complained of exploitation by bar owners.
Posting a policeman inside a hotel breached the fundamental right of the owners to carry out business, she argued.