Top cop had no authority to reject 5 am deadline
The two-page order issued by the state home department, which allowed hotels and eateries to serve till 5 am, only had provisions for a rejection from the district collector, and not the police commissioner, who clearly exceeded his brief in doing so
The state’s decision to allow the New Year revelries to continue till 5 am, the city police’s subsequent decree against it, and the outcry that followed could all have been avoided, had the top cop been reminded that the order did not give him the authority to reject the deadline relaxation.
MiD DAY has acquired a copy of the home department’s order, which was issued on December 24. This two-page order relaxed the time limit for eateries and commercial establishments on New Year’s Eve, allowing them to remain open till 5 am. The power to reject this relaxation was given solely to the city’s district collector, and no one else. This means that the city police clearly exceeded its brief, ultimately losing the case in Bombay High Court.
The power of the district collector to reject the relaxation is in keeping with provisions of the Bombay Prohibition and Excise Act, 1949, which allows the collector to take a final call on the issuance of a new licence for a permit room or wine shop, or impose a ban on sale of liquor.
“The home department’s order did not purport to be usurped by the city police,” said a senior government official, adding that the state always wants higher revenue collection, and state excise has been one of the major sources for the same. Even while a few powers of a district magistrate lie with the city police chief in Mumbai, the home department’s order did not intend for that to happen in this case, claimed the official.
Since the district collectors of Mumbai and the city’s suburbs did not raise any objection to the deadline relaxation, the state excise department communicated to all the hotels and restaurants that they could keep their doors open till 5 am on New Year’s Eve. Passes were sold accordingly. However, the city police chief took a unilateral decision to overturn the relaxation, leading to chaos.
Meanwhile, Home Minister R R Patil added to the confusion when addressing the issue at NCP’s state headquarters yesterday, when he said that the state issued orders for deadline relaxation every year, but the powers to reject such concession were vested with the city police chief. He even insisted that the home department’s order had a mention of this.
“Now that the HC has upheld the state government’s orders, the police will ensure that no untoward incident takes place. People should celebrate the New Year in a safe way and peaceful manner,” he appealed, adding, “The police will start its checks against drunk driving from 7 pm and restriction on the use of loudspeakers will remain as it is, banned after midnight,” he said.
Commenting on the confusion over the deadline, he said, “We will study the HC judgment and also take precautions next year so that the order does not face legal scrutiny.” He also said that the police was caught between the views of the state excise department to rake in more revenue and the mission undertaken by the de-addiction activities section of the social justice department.
When asked about Social Justice Minister Shivajirao Moghe’s stand against addiction, Patil said he supported his views. Moghe had, in a media briefing earlier, ranted against the celebrations, as they involve the consumption of liquor.