Monday, August 4, 2008

Why nobody respects Mumbai Police

It's because it often seems they regard the maintenance of law and order as someone else's job. Moreover, they are so petulant and rude that they can't even seem to respect themselves. With cops like these, the citizens have a standing invitation to take the law into their own hands. Most of us don't do so, because we haven't descended into anarchy yet, but it looks like the cops are ensuring we get there.

According to the law, I can call the police emergency number (100) and complain anonymously about the illegal use of loudspeakers (illegal before 6:30 am, and illegal at any time in primarily residential areas; religious use is not exempted). They have to dispatch a police van and confiscate the offending equipment. Here's my conversation with Constable Jadhav a few minutes ago (Monday, August 4, 2008, at 4:16 am):

Me: I'm calling from _____, and would like to complain about the illegal use of loudspeakers at 5 am.
Constable (I don't know if it was Jadhav): Is the noise on right now?
Me: No, but it will be at 5 am. It's on every morning --
Constable: Then call at 5, when the noise is on.
Me: But it doesn't go on for long, so by the time you send the van --
Constable: I'm hanging up
No, wait --

4:17 am - I call 100 again.

Me: I'm calling from _____. Please hear me through. The last time whoever answered didn't let me finish. That's not right.
Constable Jadhav: Yes?
Me: The loudspeakers start at 5 am. Please send a van.
Jadhav: Call when the noise starts.
Me: No, please understand, the noise doesn't last more than a couple of minutes.
Jadhav: This is an emergency number.
Me: I know, but it's your job to take complaints, and send a van for loudspeakers.
Jadhav: Did I say I refuse to take a complaint?
Me: No, you didn't say so, but your behavior is that of refusal.
Jadhav: Call when the noise starts, and we'll send a van.
Me: I take it you're not new to Mumbai --
Jadhav: No. Maybe you're new to Mumbai.
Me: Let me finish my sentence. If you're not new to Mumbai, you are aware that an azaan lasts a couple of minutes.
Jadhav: Yes.
Me: So if I call you when the azaan starts, and you send a van, it's going to waste their time, because the noise will end by the time the van gets there, and they're not going to be able to do a thing.
Jadhav: The van takes only five minutes to get there.
Me: But the azaan is less than five minutes.
Jadhav: This is an emergency number. At 5 am, we will call you.
Me: Why should the police call me at 5 am? I want to sleep.
Jadhav: Because the noise is disturbing you.
Me: Yes, but my plan is to be asleep at 5, not to be kept awake by loudspeakers or cops. Besides, it's not a matter of noise troubling me, it's a matter of violation of the law. You are a police constable, so you presumably know the law.
Jadhav: You call us when the noise starts. You feel they will start at 5 --
No, I don't feel anything, I know it for certain. They start every morning at this time. I don't think you're taking your job seriously. What's your name?
Jadhav: Jadhav.
Me: Full name?
Jadhav: We only give out surnames.
Me: OK, then. I work for [name of media organization]. I'm going to complain about you to the ACP [Assistant Commissioner of Police].
Jadhav: You do that.

At 4:58, the first loudspeaker starts off. I call 100 again at 5:01. Get through, long pause (no constable announcing himself), disconnected.

I try again at 5:02. Same thing -- connect, silence, disconnect. Lines are not terribly busy in the morning, and this is, as Constable Jadhav reminded me, an emergency number, so there's no reason for disconnection. I'm starting to think Jadhav is exercising his discretion with the help of Caller ID.

Still at 5:02, I dial 100 yet again. I connect, and silence.

Me: Hello?
Me: I'm calling from _____, and the loudspeaker is on. Please send a police van.
Constable: Where?
Me: [specify location]
Constable: Okay.
Me: Whom am I speaking to?

Well, what can you say of a police force that is too busy to enforce the law because it's too busy persecuting young couples at the seashore? Words fail me.


mandar said...

what would be the responsibility of police when they get such a complaint??
what if somebody so called ' anonymous person' deliberately makes a false complanit against some one..
do police has to take step and confiscate loudspeaker without veryfying whether this is the case for nuisance.

Is there any official way to find out who has made such a false complaint
what action can be made against such person..
reply at

moi said...

Hi Mandar, citizens have the right to complain anonymously, so no, you may not find out who complained about you. Some of your other questions are answered already in my post of July 27, 2008, (

Besides minding the times and locations specified in the law, loudspeaker use requires police permission (I think it's called a performance license).

The police responsibility is to go to the venue, stop the noise (provided it violates the law, of course) and confiscate the offending equipment.

I don't understand what you mean by "false complaint". If someone complains to the police that you're using loudspeakers illegally, even though you are using them in accordance with the law, the complaint shouldn't affect you -- when the police show up, you'd show them your licence. If someone complains about you making a loud noise when in fact you aren't doing so, the cops will find no nuisance when they arrive at the venue, and no grounds to prosecute. If the cops harass you despite your having a licence or not making any loud noise, then they're being corrupt (in which case, your problem is probably not a "false complaint" but police corruption).

I'm no authority on the law or its enforcement. You can read the rules and court orders through the post linked above. If you have further questions or a specific problem that you need to tackle, I suggest you contact Awaaz Foundation ( or the police PRO.

Anonymous said...

In my view, you were arguing with the wrong person. Usage of loudspeakers atop mosques is sanctioned by the government of India to appease the Mullas and get their votes as part of minority vote-bank politics.

The Police's hands are tied. Try complaining about slum dwellers blaring bollywood music in the middle of the night, and they will send a van immediately.

But Mullas howling like sick dogs? No, no no! That's political!

Anonymous said...

Police reform is overdue not only in Mumbai, but all over India. When the complaint comes from a private individual or company, Police do not display willingness to act, at least not initially. It may be simply called "inertia" and it is commonly understood that a little lubrication goes a long way. But, with that in place, they are as efficient and ruthless as money can buy ! I believe it worked in a case like this: IT Act 66A Arrest (background causus belli at Fee Hike protest). This might be "just one" example I happen to be familiar with, but then isn't that a fairly typical one ? The rot being systemic, one can't expect the cops to be clean; that would be a miracle.