Why should you read this?
Ah, finally it’s the weekend! And weekends are reserved for BAE and friends.
Most of us living with our parents or with land-lords that restrict guests have a hard time enjoying our weekends, especially when we want to spend it with our girlfriend or boyfriend.
So we resort to budget hotels such as OYO, AirBnB or Treebo and other low budget lodges (depending on the depth of our pockets) for a fun time where we can easily rent a room for a night or two without burning a hole in our pockets!
The owners or managers of the hotel have a condescending, judgemental and suspicious look in their eyes during check in. A chill runs down our spine, we uncomfortably hurry through it and rush to the room.
However, there is always fear lurking beneath our conscience.
Are we safe in the hotel or lodge?
Will the owner or manager of the hotel or lodge call the police?
Will the police raid the hotel?
What if we are caught in a raid?
Are there any legal provisions that allow the police to intrude our privacy?
And the worst of all, “What if my parents come to know?”
Well, you’re not the only one asking these questions!
There are many doubts surrounding this power of the police to conduct raids and this blog will tell you exactly what you should do if you’re ever caught in a raid.
Table of Contents
- Rental rooms and their policies
- Is it legal for unmarried couples to rent a room in India?
- Can the Police Raid your rental room?
- Who can be arrested while staying at a hotel or rental room?
- Can a Married Couple be harassed by the police in a raid?
- Room booked by minors
Rental rooms are basically rooms that you can rent by the hour, day, night or month. These are private properties that are put up by the owners for you to rent and stay in for as long as you desire, and pay a price for the same.
These rooms can be private properties owned by individuals, such as their houses, or they can be hotels where you can rent a room for as long as you want.
The most famous platforms that offer rental rooms are OYO, AirBnB, Treebo, and websites such as Booking.com, Yatra and Makemytrip among others in India, apart from the numerous lodges and small hotels that dot the urban and semi urban landscape
The reason this distinction is important is because their policies for YOU will differ as the type of property differs. They have different rules and regulations based on their preference and type of property.
Renting a room by an unmarried couple is NOT a crime in India. This has been observed by Justice MS Ramesh in Mypreferred Transformation and Hospitality (P) Ltd. v. District Collector:
“While live-in relationship of two adults is not deemed to be an offence, terming the occupation of a hotel room by an unmarried couple, will not attract a criminal offence.”
This means that although the police have the power to raid a private property such as a hotel, they DO NOT have the power to arrest you only on the grounds of occupying the room as an unmarried couple.
The case also asked a very interesting question on whether being caught with liquor in a hotel which does not possess a liquor licence would be punishable? The Madras High Court stated that if the guests consume liquor which they have bought with their own money then they cannot be held liable.
In the landmark case of Nandakumar vs State of Kerala the Supreme Court gave its judgement and ruled that “live-in” before marriage is NOT an offence. Justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan said;
“…they have the right to live together even outside wedlock. It would not be out of place to mention that ‘live-in relationship’ is now recognised by the legislature itself which has found its place under the provisions of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.”
If you want to know more about live-in relationships and how to deal with the police, you can click here.
It is understandable that the police have been vested with the duty to be on the look-out for any illegal activities. They have been given these duties by a number of Acts and Statutes and our Constitution.
Section 165 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC) also gives them the right to enter private properties if they have reasonable suspicion that some illegal activities are being conducted on that property. Although the Section states investigation of an offence or collecting evidence for such an investigation as a ground for search, for all practical purposes, the police may even search the premise first based on suspicion of illegal activities and then register an FIR.
It is also mandatory under Section 100 CrPC, for an attendant or staff member of the hotel to accompany the police officer to the rooms occupied by guests in the case of a raid. Along with a member of the hotel or place of stay, it is also necessary for the police officer to call two or more inhabitants of the locality or place of stay to accompany him as witnesses for the search of the property.
So, if the police comes up to your room to check on you, make sure that;
- His name is clearly visible on his badge.
- At least one staff-member of the hotel/property accompanies them to your room,
- A minimum of two local inhabitants have also accompanied them as witnesses in the search of your room.
- If you are a woman, then only a lady police officer can search you or your possessions.
- If the search is being made under the provisions of the Illegal Traffic Prevention Act, the search officer is a designated special police officer.
If you are one of the people mentioned below, then the police can certainly arrest you even if you are staying at a hotel or a rental room. Section 41 CrPC states that the following offenders can be arrested by any police officer even without a warrant.
- A person against whom a reasonable complaint has been made and the police have reasonable suspicion that he has committed a cognizable offence. An example of such a complaint could be if you’re someone who is carrying drugs, armed weapon without a licence, or involved in illicit activities such as trafficking under Section 15 of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956. To clear your dounts on immoral trafficking, prostitution and related laws, read ‘What they don’t want you to know about prostitution laws’.
The following conditions must also be satisfied, namely:—
(i) the police officer has reason to believe on the basis of such complaint, information, or suspicion that such person has committed the said offence;
(ii) the police officer is satisfied that such arrest is necessary—
(a) to prevent such person from committing any further offence; or
(b) for proper investigation of the offence; or
(c) to prevent such person from causing the evidence of the offence to disappear or tampering with such evidence in any manner; or
(d) to prevent such person from making any inducement, threat or promise to any person acquainted with the facts of the case to dissuade him from disclosing such facts to the Court or to the police officer; or
(e) as unless such a person is arrested, his presence in the Court whenever required cannot be ensured.
There are other non-cognizable offences for which the police need a search warrant before entering the premises. It is our responsibility as vigilant citizens to ask for a search warrant whenever the below-mentioned situations occur. Section 93 of the CrPC states these situations.
- If you are summoned by the Court to produce yourself or a document or thing, and they have reason to believe that you would not obey the summons.
- If it is believed by the Court that search is required for an inquiry, trial or any other proceeding that is mentioned in the CrPC.
Along with these situations, it is also necessary to remember your rights and this section grants you the following:
- Always check the search warrant. In most cases the Courts specifically mention the place to which the search or inspection extends. The police are permitted to search only such places which are mentioned in the search warrant, and not beyond that.
- Only the District Magistrate or Chief Judicial Magistrate, and no other Magistrate, can grant search warrants for a document, parcel or thing which is in the custody of the postal or telegraph authority.
Section 17 of Police Act adds that if you’re conducting unlawful assembly in any hotel then you can be arrested by a Special Police Officer. It is so for the protection of the inhabitants and security of the property where unlawful assembly takes place.
As for married couples, the question of morality dissolves as they are ethically and legally bound by the ceremony of marriage. It is deemed absolutely normal for them to share the room after they have succumbed to the rites and rituals of the society.
Hence, even if the police raid a hotel or rental, and a married couple is occupying the room, the chances are that they will peacefully leave without harassing or annoying anybody once they believe that you are married.
Most hotels explicitly state in their guests’ guidelines that people under 18 years of age cannot book a hotel room without a guardian who is above the mentioned age.
Section 11 of Indian Contract Act, 1872 lays down that a minor is not competent to enter into a contract and such contracts are void.
Booking your room at a hotel is also a type of contract which includes terms and conditions, as well as a penalty for breaking it.
Any person who is a minor is assumed to not have knowledge of the consequences of the acts in which he/she is getting involved. Senior advocate Aalok Mehrotra has said;
“A stay in a hotel or a guest house is also a kind of contract, so unaccompanied minors should not be allowed to book a room on their own.”
This is the reason all the hotels in India are required to ask for a valid ID proof from their guests before they check-in to the hotel.
In case you are a minor who wants to book a room, make sure you are accompanied by a guardian who is 18 years old or above.
After reading the post it is clear that the police have a responsibility to keep our country safe and punish the ones who get involved in illegal activities. This gives them the power to search a private property if they have reasonable suspicion or doubt that some illegal activities are being conducted on the premises.
However, as far as arrests of unmarried couples staying in hotel rooms is concerned, there is NO such law that states that a room cannot be occupied by two unmarried people.
It is true that the police sometimes work more on ethical and moral grounds rather than on lawful grounds, and it is OUR responsibility to take a stand wherever we are being pressurized without any lawful reason.
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