The Bombay High Court today said while there was a “laudable intention” behind the recent police raids on hotels in suburban Malwani following complaints of a prostitution racket operating there, innocent persons cannot be harassed and their privacy should not be invaded.
A division bench of justices V M Kanade and Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi was hearing a petition filed by Khar resident Sumeer Sabharwal, terming the raids as “illegal, intrusive and unconstitutional” and seeking action against police officials involved.
Public prosecutor Sandeep Shinde told the court that police received complaints from local MLAs and residents that hotels in the area were being used to run prostitution racket.
“The complaints claimed that girls living in the area were being abused by miscreants. Hence higher authorities directed the local police to take action,” he said, adding that during raids the police first checked the hotel registers and then called couples who had given fake names.
The court, however, sought to know under what rules or provision of law, hotels are asked (by authorities) to take down the names and copy of identity cards of those persons who want to book a room.
“Obviously it is a laudable intention. There is no doubt that the police’s intention was to regulate and find out if there was any prostitution racket. But, at the same time care should be taken to ensure that innocent people are not harassed and their privacy is not invaded. Police cannot take a moral stand,” Justice Kanade said.
“Which policy decision or rule authorises the police to ask the hotel to register the identity of the person who books a room? Any action of the executive should be supported by legal provisions. We want to know after receiving such complaints what procedure is followed before taking action,” the court said.
The High Court directed the police to file an additional affidavit on this by September 22.
The petition also sought investigation by an independent agency into the incident and for it to be monitored by the HC.
On August 6, the police had cracked down on hotels and bars in Malwani area of Mumbai and imposed fine on several couples on charges of indecency.