The Mumbai Police Monday admitted that detaining 13 couples after raiding hotels in Madh and Marve was “wrong”. Joint Commissioner of Police (law and order) Deven Bharti also said that the entire operation got “messed up”.
“I admit it was the police’s mistake. There are some officers who were overzealous. They should not have taken the 13 couples into custody. The inquiry (into the incident) is still under way,” said Bharti, adding that action would be taken against officers who participated in the raid.
The Mumbai Police had booked 13 couples on August 6 for alleged indecent behaviour after knocking on hotel rooms and carting them away to Malvani police station. The raids were reportedly carried out following an “unverified” tip-off that “prostitution-like activities” were happening there.
On Sunday, some of the couples had told The Indian Express that they were “humiliated” by the police, who continued to harass them even after they produced ID documents.
Bharti said the “intention of the operation” was to take action against “immoral activities” — something locals in the area have been complaining about.
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“They (officers who conducted the raids) should not have entered hotels and asked guests to step out of their rooms. However, not all couples came from the rooms; some were found behaving indecently in the open at various sea-facing points in the hotels,” Bharti said. “Information on immoral activities got messed up by the detention of guests.”
Senior police officers said about 15 officers were involved in the operation. “We will identify them from CCTV cameras at various hotels and take action. The police have said they were API and PSI-level officers,” Bharti said.
The raid started at 3 pm and the couples were detained for five hours — allowed to leave only after they paid a fine. Police sources said a special team was formed by the Zonal Deputy Commissioner of Police Vikram Deshmane with four locations — two hotels and two cottages — “marked” for raids.
The 26 persons were fined under Section 110 (indecent behaviour in public) of the Bombay Police Act, while three cases were registered for alleged prostitution under the Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act.
Senior police officers said that three men fled the scene from outside Mantara Residency — one of the hotels that was raided — while three women were arrested and charged for prostitution.
Officers said the Mantara Residency hotel had been under the scanner since 2009, when a 13-year-old girl was allegedly raped there.
Harish Shetty, owner of Mantara Residency, said, “We are running our businesses as per police guidelines but they are still harassing our guests. No prostitutes were found inside my hotel. I have been told they were found outside my hotel, so why are my guests being harassed?”
Bharti rejected claims by hotel owners that they had been charged for creating “nuisance” under the Bombay Police Act, but added that action could be taken against them after the inquiry is complete.
However, the owner of one of the hotels said, “I paid a Rs 1,200 fine for nuisance. If they didn’t charge us, then why did I pay the fine?” the owner said.
On Sunday, police had launched an inquiry into the incident. Additional Commissioner of Police, North region, Fateh Singh Patil said a report will be prepared in the next three-four days. Senior officers at the commissioner compound have already been briefed about the “basic facts and faults” of the operation.
Milind Khetle, senior police inspector at Malvani police station, where the couples were taken, said his officers had been receiving complaints about people drinking on the road or indulging in immoral activities. “These are regular complaints we receive and we act on them,” Khetle said.