Chennai City Police feels it is already a little late for them to have introduced the tenant verification process, but other cities where this rule is already being enforced have seen mixed results.
For instance Mumbai, where the rule was introduced almost a decade ago, has seen it being quite successfully implemented. Rajneesh Seth, Joint Commissioner (law and order), Mumbai police, says the response has really been good and the compliance is almost 95 per cent, especially in the western suburbs, where most houses are let out on rent.
According to many Mumbaikars, it has become a community-driven initiative where even housing societies require you to submit a verification form before letting out a house. The process requires both the tenant and the landlord to go to the police station to submit the form. “Most new tenants know about it so the process goes on, but there is not much check on the older tenants,” says R. Rajanay Padhye, a resident of Matunga. In cities such as Pune, a lawyer's approval is also required on the verification form.
However, the case is quite different in Bangalore. Last November, after the twin blasts at Chinnaswamy stadium, Bangalore police enforced the rule under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, commonly used to impose prohibition orders.
Tenants are required to submit a copy of rental or lease agreement along with passports, contact numbers, order of appointment and their official identity document to the landlords.
House-owners who do not collect these details could be punished under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code, which attracts a month's simple imprisonment or fine or both.
This enabled the police to issue orders to landlords, asking them to provide information about tenants and, in case they are foreign nationals, a copy of the passport, travel documents and purpose of stay.
The rule was first introduced in 2006 and then in 2008, but hit a dead end each time. “Only a few of us complied with the registration. The number of tenants has increased so much that it is almost impossible to keep a check on them, especially because they keep changing. There is not much enforcement too,” says Ruchika Agarwal, a resident of Bangalore who lets out her house to a group of working women.
Naveen Shetty, a Bangalore-based lawyer, recalls the fact that there was a similar order invoked as early as in 1991 when some suspects in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case were hiding in Bangalore.
“There is always a need for an exercise to track suspicious behaviour but landlords cannot be forced to do anything like this, particularly furnishing phone numbers of tenants. There is always a possibility that they can get into the wrong hands,” he says.
States including Gujarat and Haryana have voluntary registration of tenants, while Delhi Police has made the enforcement stricter over the past last few years. “The registration started a decade ago as an anti-terror measure but then awareness camps for landlords were organised, door-to-door drives conducted, and a few years ago, quite a few were prosecuted for housing anti-social elements,” says a senior Delhi Police official.
— with inputs from bureaus in Mumbai, Bangalore and New Delhi.