Mumbai Police target couples, beat retreat

Mumbai Police have come under fresh flak for moral policing after an advisory to officers to take legal action against couples meeting in isolated places along the city's seafronts.

However, the advisory was quickly withdrawn and amended after it became public and sparked a controversy on Thursday.

In a damage-control exercise, top officers said the intention was not to crack down on couples, but to protect them from criminals. They conceded that the wording and language of the advisory "could have been different".

The advisory was in Marathi and the subject said, 'Indecent behaviour by couples at seafronts and the role of the police'. It was issued by the additional commissioner of police (special branch) to the nine zonal DCPs in the city on January 14.

According to the advisory, couples venture to isolated spots in Worli, Girgaum, Marine Drive, Bandra Bandstand, Juhu Chowpatty and other seafronts in Mumbai during low-tide, which are usually difficult to access. It says that if these couples are spotted by persons with a criminal mindset, they could threaten and loot them, sexually assault women or even murder them.

The advisory warns that in the backdrop of the Delhi gangrape case, such incidents would cause insecurity among Mumbaikars and could result in protests, rallies and violence.

The last line instructs officers to drive away couples if they are found at such places, and if necessary, take legal action against them.

Reacting to the fresh charges of moral policing, joint commissioner of police (law and order) Sadanand Date said, "The advisory has been withdrawn, and it is being issued again in an amended form. The only problem with it was the last line. Instead of focusing on what couples should or should not do, we should have mentioned how police patrolling and surveillance could be increased".

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