The Bombay high court on Thursday said the police cannot take a moral stand without the backing of law or legislative policy. The remark was made while the court questioned the state on the moral policing witnessed during raids in hotels at Malwani last month, where several couples were detained, fined and humiliated.
A division bench of justice VM Kanade and justice Dr Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi was hearing a criminal public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Khar resident Sumeer Sabharwal sought a court-monitored inquiry into the raid, and appropriate action against the erring police personnel.
It also sought quashing of the police action of imposing fine on the couples, and stated the compensation should be recovered from the personnel involved.
The court said any action of the executive should be supported by legal provisions or executive policy. If there is no legislative policy, then executive actions have to be based on some policy by the state Cabinet or Assembly. It is not for the police to take a moral stand and say this is illegal, said the court.
The court said care should be taken that ‘honest people’, who want to stay (in hotels) and it is their right to do so, are not arrested in the guise of taking regulatory measures and that innocent people are not harassed and their privacy is not violated, the court said.
The state in an affidavit tendered on Thursday said the police had received several complaints from locals MLAs, organisations and residents of an alleged prostitution racket in the some of the lodges and private homes in the area. The police was therefore directed to conduct checks and take preventive steps.
Government pleader Sandeep Shinde appearing for the state said, certain lodges and registers were checked. He added that some customers had not furnished their identities at the lodges.
The court asked under what provisions the disclosure of identities was mandatory and directed the state to file a further affidavit on September 22.