TWELVE PEOPLE have been booked in Palghar for renting out their properties to foreign nationals without informing the police. The cases were lodged after the Palghar collector issued an order earlier this month, making it mandatory for owners to intimate the police before renting out properties to foreigners.
While more than eight cases have been lodged in Tulinj, the others have been registered in Nalasopara, Virar and Vasai against landlords. The first FIR was lodged against five persons in Tulinj on November 20, police said.
“These people have been booked under Section 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by a public servant) of the IPC for letting their properties to foreign nationals, especially Nigerians,” said an officer with Palghar police. He added, “We have booked them after the collector’s orders. We have also spread awareness among local residents regarding this.”
While none of the 12 booked has been arrested, officers said they would have to present themselves in front of the magistrate. “We will file chargesheets and the accused will be called to court. In case they don’t come, they will be arrested,” a senior officer said.
On November 8, Palghar Collector Kailash Shinde had issued an order under Section 144 of IPC, making it mandatory for residents to inform the police if they are renting out their properties to foreigners. “This is to ensure that we have a record of foreign nationals living in our area. This will also curb the practice of illegal immigrants living in rented properties,” Shinde said.
The collector had issued the order after the Palghar police informed him about “threats” to the law and order situation that illegal immigrants pose. “Several Nigerians and Africans live in the area without any documentation. They are involved in several anti-social activities and it is difficult to trace them,” said an officer from Tulinj police.
In Tulinj, Nalasopara and Vasai, a sizable population of African nationals stay in rented accommodation. Last week, three Nigerian nationals were arrested for living without proper documentation. While the police and district administration claimed that the move would decrease the number of illegal immigrants in the area, local residents accused the police of arbitrarily using their powers.
“There’s no clarity who should inform the police about such cases and how. Is there a date from when this should begin? We don’t know what to do. It’s not that we don’t follow regular rules of police verification before signing the rent agreement. So, why do we need to do this?” asked Rajesh Kawedar, a Nalasopara resident.
Another resident, Kiran Kamat, said, “The police are targeting people specifically. They are being unjust, as letting a property out is our primary income. How do we ignore foreigners? Don’t they have a right to stay in a house?”
But the police said property owners should contact their nearby police stations to get clarity. “We have spread awareness on the matter. It is not a crime to let property to foreign nationals, but we should be informed about it,” a senior officer said.