The Mumbai Police have written to the State Home department that they can’t shut down establishments such as eating joints and entertainment spots if they stay open beyond the permissible time at night.
Highly-placed sources in the home department told The Indian Express that when they wrote to the police to ascertain as to who would enforce rules on the closing hours for establishments, they categorically stated that it should be done by the BMC and State Excise department, which are the licencing authorities. The Centre recently announced establishments should be allowed to operate 24×7.
“As far as nightlife is concerned, bars earlier needed a Public Performance Licence (PPL) and an eating house licence from the Mumbai police. Both these were recently discontinued by the government and so establishments do not have to approach the Mumbai police for anything,” said a senior official from the Home department.
According to this official, the Mumbai Police would prosecute the establishments if they were found to remain open beyond permissible deadlines in the night under Section 131 (A) of the Bombay Police Act as they were the licencing authorities. A senior IPS officer, who did not wish to be named, said that there were times when the establishments challenged them legally when they went to enforce the deadline.
“A bar owner would ask us on what grounds are we asking him to close down. And his point would be legally valid. Since we are no longer the licensing authority, we cannot enforce such deadlines on them. It is for this reason that police have said that the BMC and state excise department should enforce the closing deadlines,” the IPS officer said, adding that the closing deadline would anyway be a thing of the past if the government is to implement the Centre’s decision.
When asked whether bars staying open all night would be a matter of concern for the police, the officer said, “Initially, there can be some hiccups from the point of view of law and order and the safety of citizens, especially women. But gradually, we will evolve like other international cities, that have no deadlines on nightlife. Police patrolling will also be increased.”
Aditya Thackeray, president of the Shiv Sena’s youth wing Yuva Sena, had suggested in September 2013 that the BMC, controlled by the Sena and BJP, should permit a more vibrant nightlife in the financial capital. He had also held a meeting with Mumbai Mayor Sunil Prabhu in this regard. In September 2013, the BMC passed Thackeray’s proposal for 24×7 eateries, chemists and milk shops.
The tourism department had then sought consent from the then police commissioner Rakesh Maria on whether bars, pubs and discos should be allowed to remain open all night. Maria had gave the go-ahead, with the rider that only bars in non-residential areas be allowed to remain open all night.