The Mumbai police can't seem to make up their minds whether they want to play the role of a moral police or not.
Within 10 days of issuing a circular asking the policemen to make the city safer by "shooing away" people sitting at popular spots, the police had to backtrack and issue another circular on Thursday.
On January 14, the special branch of the Mumbai police had issued a note to various zonal deputy commissioners of police asking them to warn couples sitting at isolated places or book them as per law.
The circular, which was an internal note, got leaked and was criticised by the media for promoting moral policing.
On Thursday, a second circular was issued stating that the police would increase patrolling in secluded places and chowpatties to ensure that couples aren't "targeted by anti-social elements".
Ambadas Pote, deputy commissioner of police and spokesperson of Mumbai police, defended the circular stating that it was for the safety of the people and not moral policing. "However, in the new circular issued, we have dropped the last line and made it clear that patrolling should be increased in places where couples sit," he said.
The first circular had said that during low tide, couples venture too far out at locations such as Girgaum chowpatty, Worli, Marine Drive, Bandra Bandstand and Juhu chowpatty, and often indulge in vulgar practices.
Criminals can take advantage of such couples and can loot them, sexually exploit them or even murder them, the circular said, adding that in the wake of the gang rape in New Delhi, if such incidents happen in the city there would be protests and morchas, which may lead to law and order problems.
Experts have mixed opinion on the police circular.
YP Singh, former IPS officer-turned-advocate, said the first circular was illegal and the police do not have the powers to shoo away couples. "It is an internal circular and if the police intend to take public action, then, by law, it needs to be made public."
Activist Pratibha Naithani, however, said it was a good move and couples are many times soft targets of criminals.
Four couples fined, booked for indecency
Four couples were booked and fined for 'indecent behaviour' in a public place on Thursday.
The couples, who were sitting near Powai lake, a popular spot, were fined by the police.
The action was initiated on the basis on a circular issued by the Mumbai police commissioner's office on January 14 asking the policemen to warn and shoo away couples from such spots.
The circular even directed the police to take action against the couples, if needed.
Confirming the move, Bajirao Bhosale, senior police inspector, Powai police station, said, "Four couples have been fined for indecent behaviour."
The police booked the couple under relevant sections of the Bombay Police Act.