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A police commando’s murder turns focus on nightclubs in Mohali, Chandigarh

While the lax enforcement of rules in Mohali has turned its nightclubs into a law-and-order menace, Chandigarh club owners say it's also hurting their business.

Written by Jagdeep Singh Deep , Saurabh Prashar , Hina Rohtaki | Chandigarh/mohali | Published: August 12, 2019 4:55:56 pm
‘Since nobody checks clubs here in Mohali, we can party till whenever we want,’ a club-goer says. (File)

Mohali: With the murder of a Punjab police commando deputed in the Chief Minister’s security team outside a night club in Mohali, questions are again being raised on the lackadaisical attitude of the city’s police and district administration in ensuring its nightclubs follow rules and regulations.

Despite various law and order disruptions, violent crimes, firing incidents to the recent murder of a young man, nightclub owners in Mohali are brazenly violating rules and regulations. Most of the clubs operate beyond the permissible limit of midnight — a few stay open till early morning.

“In Mohali, the clubs remain open till 5-6 am, we prefer to come here once the clubs in Chandigarh close. Since nobody checks clubs here in Mohali, we can party till whenever we want,” said Shantanu Sharma, a regular club goer.

He added: “Although we have to pay more in Mohali clubs because they allow us to party till early morning, that is not a problem. Because there is no checking here, we can have our party uninterrupted.”

After each incident of violence, the Mohali district administration and police indulge in a knee-jerk reaction, conducting raids and checks for a few days. After about a week or 10 days, things go back to as they were.

After commando Sukhwinder Kumar was shot dead, the district administration locked Walking Street Night club, where the incident had taken place. Deputy Commissioner Girish Dayalan also imposed Section 144 of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and ordered that no club shall remain open after 12 midnight.

Pavitter Pal Singh Virdi, a Mohali-based social activist, says, “The police and the district administration have completely failed to enforce time restrictions on the night clubs.”

“Can anybody believe that night clubs are operating till 6 am and neither the police Nor district administration is aware of it?” Virdi said.

“Most clubs in Zirakpur are located on the main road, and these places remain fully packed with youngsters throughout the night. Hundreds of vehicles can be seen parked haphazardly on both sides of the main road. Then these youngsters get out in a drunken state, drive their vehicles and pose a serious threat to their own life as well as lives of others on the road,” he added.

“We are the real sufferers. Brawls, fights are a routine here. People who are living in Zirakpur are fed up of these places”, said Manoj Das, another Zirakpur resident.

“As per rules, liquor can be served in night clubs or restaurants till 12 midnight, but we came to know that liquor was being served till early morning hours. Now, for the first time, we have formed three teams in the district to check on night clubs. Teams shall be headed by Inspector rank officers who will penalise offenders on the spot,” said Assistant Excise and Taxation Officer (AETO), Paramjit Singh.

Challans, Section 144 no deterrent

AETO Paramjit Singh said that in the past, they imposed a fine on Hypnotic Bar on April 28 for serving liquor after permissible time. “Almas nightclub in Zirakpur was also fined in June last year. In fact, Walking Street Night club was also fined in August 2018. Fines were also imposed on The Village, Cyanide, Hop Highway and Hollywood club”, Singh added.

“I have spoken with the officers of Excise department, Punjab Pollution Control Board and the lawmakers to find out a solution so we can permanently fix timings for such late night outlets. Imposing Section 144 CrPC after every two months is not a smart way to handle the problem,” Mohali’s Deputy Commissioner Girish Dayalan told Chandigarh Newsline.

“Sometimes, the club owners take plea of a notification of Labour Department that was issued on July 16, 2019 and claim that they are also covered under Punjab Shops and Commercial Establishment Act, and thus can remain open for 24 hours. This notification was a part of Ease of doing Business initiative but it does not permit the nightclubs or any other establishments to serve liquor after 12 midnight,” Dayalan added.

Club owners want timing extended till 2 am

Club owners used to have an association that is now dissolved. Former president of the association and owner of Junk Yard Night Club, Ajit Pal Singh, said, “Our business comes under entertainment industry and the government must allow us to stay open till 2 am. It will solve all the problems. In cities like Mumbai, the clubs are allowed to operate till 3 am.”

About security issues in the clubs, Ajit Pal Singh said, “All the clubs hire bouncers and do not let anybody create nuisance inside the club. If anyone fights outside our premises, we can not be held liable for that”.

Police blame district administration

Mohali Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Kuldeep Singh Chahal said, “We have registered 15 cases from January to July this year against the club owners, but we can not fix the timings. If the district administration fixes the timing, it shall be easier for us to take action”.

“I have directed Station House Officers of Zirakpur and Mohali to ensure clubs do not violate any norms, or else SHOs shall be held responsible”, Chahal told Newsline.

— Jagdeep Singh Deep

Chandigarh Police wants midnight deadline, club owners say unfair

Chandigarh: Two months after the firing at F-bar, Sector 26, involving four BJP workers and a local leader, Sehdav Salaria, in November 2018, Chandigarh police has strongly recommended changing the closure timings for nightclubs, discotheques and bars across the city. Chandigarh Police wants the deadline for such outlets should be brought down from 1 am to 12 midnight.

However, the Chandigarh Hotel and Restaurant Association had been vehemently opposing this.

Although the Hotel and Restaurant Association won the battle, but UT Administration has asked Chandigarh Police to ensure that all such clubs and bars strictly adhere to the rules and regulations, especially the operation timings.

Instructions through District Magistrate-cum-Deputy Commissioner, Mandip Singh Brar, were issued in the months of February this year and since then 14 FIRs were registered against the managers of night clubs for running the clubs after 1am and serving liquor after 12pm.

In Chandigarh, night clubs can only receive and serve the orders of drinks and food till 12 midnight and gates of clubs, discos must get closed till 1 am. The music is also only allowed to be played till 12 midnight.

Chandigarh police has the record of 21 night clubs, discos mostly located in Sector 8, Sector 7, Sector 26, Phase-1, Phase-2 in Industrial Area, Phase-I.

SSP (UT) Nilambri Vijay Jagdale said, “Indeed, we had strongly recommended that the closing timing of late-night discos and clubs should be 12 midnight instead of 1 am. Our idea was opposed by the members of Chandigarh Hotel And Restaurant Association. The firing incident in Sector 26 and other violent crimes linked to late night clubs were alarming calls for us. Onwards that incident, we adopted zero-tolerance policy against the managements of such clubs that were found violating the norms. A few night clubs managers were even booked twice for serving the liquor after the permissible time.”

Two of the managers of Para Club situated at Centra Mall, phase-1, in Industrial Area, were arrested twice. Once they were arrested for opening the club after 1am and other time they were arrested for serving the liquor after 12 midnight. Coincidentally, the night when a Punjab police commando deputed in the security of Punjab Chief Minister’s security detail was shot dead outside a nightclub in Mohali, Chandigarh police had raided half a dozen night clubs and arrested staff members of four clubs for violating the District Magistrate’s orders”.

A senior police officer of Chandigarh said, “In most of the cases, offenders were slapped monetary fines once they pleaded and accepted their fault before the Magistrate. There are barely a few cases when offenders were sentenced with imprisonment of six months. Section 188 of IPC is a bailable offense. Accused is released on bail from the police station even on his personal security bond.”

Chandigarh Club owners feel lack of strictness in Mohali affects their business

Owners of Chandigarh based night clubs feel strictness in Chandigarh and relaxation in rules and regulations in neighboring areas of Zirakpur and Mohali city is damaging their business. One of the businessmen, who recently shut down a night club at his hotel in phase-2 of Industrial Area, said, “People come to night clubs for party and enjoyment. We agree with UT administration about their decision to close the gate of clubs at 1am but what about the clubs in Zirakpur and Mohali, which operates till 6 am. People will prefer to go to those places instead of clubs in Chandigarh. I suffered immense financial losses and had to shut down my club. Apart from violence, there are numerous instances when youngsters lost their lives in drunken driving road accidents while coming from late night clubs in Mohali. Punjab government should also ensure strictness in Mohali, rather than penalising businessmen in Chandigarh.”

Arvinder Pal Singh, president of Chandigarh Hotel and Restaurant Association, said, “There should be same operational timings for all the night clubs across the tricity. Businessmen in Chandigarh are facing the heat as police keep booking them under Section 188 of IPC. The offence attracts a punishment of six months along with a fine which may extend to Rs 1,000 or both”.

— Saurabh Prashar

With student polls here, nightclubs under scanner

Chandigarh: As many as 30 restaurants and bars have faced the heat of Chandigarh Excise and Taxation department in the last six months for various violations including serving liquor to customers below the age of 25 years and operating beyond the permissible time limits. Most of these that were challaned are in Sector 26 and 7- a popular watering hole of Chandigarh.

The Excise department has also collected revenue of Rs 46 lakh as penalty during this period from these erring bars and restaurants.

For clubs that were found running beyond the permissible time of 1 am, the excise department has written to the police to lodge FIRs in the matter.

This month, as many as 12 such restaurants and clubs faced a penalty with Paara club in Centra mall also facing suspension of liquor license for two months after the same was found operating post 1 am.

Assistant Excise and Taxation Commissioner RK Chaudhary said that they have constituted teams that keep a close watch on the violations being committed by these bars and clubs. Various teams of Chandigarh Police are also conducting late night raids to keep a check on night clubs bars and restaurants operating beyond permissible limits and violating District Magistrate’s orders issued under Section 144 of CrPC.

Especially when the Panjab University student council elections are barely a month away, the Excise department has asked it’s teams to keep an extra vigil on the night clubs.

Several clubs have been under fire for serving liquor to customers below 25 years as well.

Under the Punjab Intoxicants License and Sales Orders 1956, a licensee shall not sell liquor to any person below the age of 25 years. Violators can be prosecuted and their license can be suspended. The same age limit has been adopted by Chandigarh excise and taxation department.

In August last year, the excise department went on a drive and challaned seven eateries and bars for serving liquor to customers below the age of 25 in Sectors 7 and 26.

“Since Panjab University student elections are scheduled to be held next month, usually different student outfits organize parties at night clubs to woo the voters and liquor flows freely. Liquor is served to underage students as well and the parties also go on beyond 1 am,” a senior official of the excise and taxation department said.

He added, “Thus, we have constituted special teams and warned all hotels, clubs, bars and pubs to strictly follow the norms while selling and serving liquor as any violation shall attract strict action that may even include cancellation of licence.”

— Hina Rohtaki

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