Raids by Mumbai police’s Social Service Branch (SSB) at two of the prominent lounge and café in the city recently caused tremendous harassment to the patrons present there.
Though the raids were for alleged flouting of licence norms by these places, the patrons were made to wait for hours – till late night – to take down their contact details and were videographed, as the police claimed that they wanted to gather strong evidences.
On Friday night, a team lead by assistant commissioner of police, SSB, Vasant Dhoble raided café Zoe at Mathuradas Mills Compound in Lower parel citing that the place was playing music without a proper performance licence and that it had violated a rule pertaining to over crowding that specifies only 166 people per 1,000 square feet in a restaurant. The rule pertains to Bombay Police Act of 1960.
Dressed in plain clothes, Dhoble and his team arrived at Zoe in the night and started videographing the packed café. There was chaos when the patrons learnt that it was a raid by Dhoble and his team. Those present there said that people abruptly got up from their seats, paid bills and left.
The owners of the café were fined for overcrowding and for playing music with proper licence.
Café Zoe owners reacted on facebook, “No, we were NOT RAIDED by the authorities on Friday. We were just fined, and that too after we had closed the Café”.
In another SSB raid, a day later on Saturday night at city lounge Shiro in Worli guests were allowed to leave the premises only by 3.30 am to 4 am. The raid was conducted at around closing time (1.15 am to 1.30 am).
Unlike many of the nightclub raids reported in the recent past, the patrons in this case were made to wait inside the eatery till the police officials had finished making records their detailed information. “They took down our names, addresses and mobile numbers,” says Sachin Kotre (28), an ad film director, who was there for a friend’s birthday. “The two queues — one for women (being managed by a female constable) and one for men — were moving really slowly. I was only able to leave around 3.30am, and I don’t even drink alcohol.”
According to ACP Dhoble, who was present at the scene, the restaurant did not possess the appropriate certificates and was violating the overcrowding law. “I checked their documents, and they do not have the license to function as a discotheque. They had the license to conduct an orchestra,” says Dhoble. When asked why the patrons were made to wait for two hours and their details taken down, he says, “They will be called to court if the need arises. They are witnesses.”
Dhoble had been in news for last few months for cracking down on bars, cafeteria, lounges violating licence conditions. Some bars were raided, as the police alleged that they were doubling up as prostitution joints.
Dhoble has been under severe criticism with citizens and activists calling his actions harassment to night life lovers and moral policing.