How can an unmarried couple book a hotel room in India without creating a ruckus or bribing the hotel staff?
Author: Shrestha Banerjee, National Law University and Judicial Academy, Assam.
“Unmarried couples can be in a live-in relationship, check-in to hotel rooms and do whatever they want. There are no laws and restrictions on it.” – Taj Hassan, Delhi Police Chief Spokesperson, Quint, 29th July 2016
According to information gathered by a news portal ‘The News Minute’, When six students from Pune, four boys, and two girls, decided to set out to see Kerala in October last year, they hadn’t bargained on being told there are no hotel rooms available for unmarried couples. After a survey, they found out that most of the hotels had terms and policies denying access or accommodation to “people posing as a couple” without proof of any documentation.
The group received dismayed looks and expressions from receptionists of each and every hotel whom they had called up for booking, and they had only disappointed them more by turning down on them each time.
In reality, there are millions of such unmarried customers every day who, in anticipation of spending some quality private time together, seek hotel bookings. Sadly, the pseudo-liberal society that we live in India has erected so many boundaries for love relationships that just like parks, streets or any other public places, they encounter with embarrassing denials even at hotels, which are in actuality not supposed to withhold such dissents.
Article 15(2) of the Indian constitution clearly states that no person shall be denied access to any shop, hotel, restaurant or any such places of public access on grounds of sex, among other criteria.
Article 19(1)(d) guarantees citizens the freedom of movement throughout the territory of India.
This brings to our mind the obvious implication that this should include the unhindered right of Unmarried Couple to book rooms in hotels, guest houses and the like, right?
Not exactly, says the Hospitality Industry. Even if outdated in today’s age, the truth is that there prevails an unspoken rule of not allowing an unmarried couple to book rooms in hotels, although there is no legality behind this norm, and it is apparently a sheer case of moral policing.
The saddest part is that this discrimination is based on sex. A duo is denied hotel bookings by virtue of their being a girl and a boy together, which invited legitimate opposition from moralists and idealists of the society challenging the stay of two unmarried people from the opposite sex in an enclosed room. Were the bookings filed by two males or two females, such hurdles generally haven’t come up.
At the same time, as if to add to the misery, K Ramamurthy, chairperson, Hotel Association of India, added fuel to the fire by explaining that such unmarried couples are not allowed in for risks pertaining to the ‘breach of security’ by doing something illegal. He also questioned the very purpose which makes a couple stay in a room a statement that it’s against our custom, stating that they have no apparent cause or requirement to do so.
Thus, despite no such laws being accorded by the Association of Hotels in India or elsewhere, unmarried couples continue to face this harassment to their privacy and fundamental rights for generations.
It is a blatant lie when hoteliers tell you that the law does not permit them to rent out rooms to unmarried couples. The Supreme Court of India nowhere states that it is illegal for unmarried couples to book a hotel room. Not a single law mentions anywhere that an unmarried couple cannot stay together in a hotel. Judges and senior lawyers have openly clarified that there is no such Act or Clause in the Indian Constitution which prohibits hotels, lodges, from giving rooms to unmarried couples.
However, it has been observed umpteen number of times that the unmarried couples have gone to the extent of pleading to the hoteliers for providing a room, which in reality, is a challenge to their fundamental right of freedom of movement provided under Article 19(1)(d), under the Indian Constitution.
It was not just the incident with the young group from Pune or the Kerala hotels that had a problem with a ‘Mr and Miss’ check-in. this is apparently a case of injustice prevalent throughout the country where the police conduct merciless raids inside hotel rooms under the alleged guild of ‘public indecency’. A news report by ‘The News Minute’ again showcased an incredulous incident dating back to August 2015. The Malwani police from Mumbai picked up close to 40 couples from hotel rooms in Madh Island and Aksa areas. What was shocking was that the couples were consenting adults who were raided for public indecency despite confining their affection for each other within their rooms. A report in Mid-day mentions that a lot of those picked up were college students who were rounded up to the local police station and asked to call their parents. The report adds that the couples were fined Rs 1200 for “indecent behavior in public” and were let off after close to five hours. What was worst was that one of the girls was even slapped and inflicted with the battery when she questioned the police.
This kind of behavior not only leaves the individuals in a state of trauma and depression but also puts on display the shallowness of our society’s attitude towards love relationships and its failure to adapt itself to the liberalizing world. The insults and unreasonable raids conducted by a merciless Police made the girls at Mumbai feel that they are illegal people carrying out sexual offences for money. “I am not a prostitute. I am an adult who was out with my fiancé,” she told the newspaper.Police are considered to be the guardian protectors of people against any crimes of the society but the reality gets equally brutal in our country when it is the police who manifest such illegitimate and illegal activities that harass innocent people.
The problem traces back its origin to the eternal conflict between laws and customs in India, in which irrational customs and outmoded norms always override the validity of laws. People are too doused into the norms of their societal shame, propriety and public morality, to spare innocent couples. As a result, we have a society torn between the contrasts of liberalism and conservatism. On one hand the Indian Judiciary takes the pain of soliciting progressive values like live-in relationships, pre-marital sex, and on the other hand we see couples facing harsh criticism, moral policing, illegitimate raids and monetary extortion from the Indian police in a society that unequivocally refuses to follow its judgment’s authority under the cloak of discretion and morality. In the very first place, our society taboos and secludes couples by not entertaining any kind of intimacies in the public. In addition, couples are subjected to harassment even if they confine themselves to restricted or private places. Policemen making unwarranted visits into couple spots and parks for catching innocent girls and boys and trapping them into illegal penalties are a very common scene in our country that is encouraged by the conservative sections.
Thus, in a country where you are raided and charged money by the Police on sitting in a park with your soul mate, it is obvious that access to hotels for unmarried couples will be debarred too.
In the case of S. Khushboo vs Kanniammal & Anr , the three-judge bench at Supreme Court, comprising of Justices K.G. Balakrishnan, Deepak Verma and B S Chauhan had established the legality of pre-marital sex and live-in relationships, opining that that a man and woman living together without marriage cannot be construed as an offence. The court had claimed that two people simply living together is Right to Life guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution’s Fundamental Rights. Thus, there lies no cause for police to conduct raids on grounds of public morality and decency when two unmarried people book hotel rooms for their own privacy.
There are several hotels for unmarried couples in India that rent rooms to couples without hassle. The safe way around these days is to make a hotel booking online through various portals. You can also choose to pre-book a room on your name for two people when you book a hotel room online. These portals allow you to book the hotel room securely without asking uncomfortable questions.
And the second most important thing is to read the hotel policies carefully. Because some hotels for reasons best known to them do not allow unmarried couples to book a room. It will help you to become alert when selecting the hotel and you can rather book a good hotel which by no means indulges in any kind of trafficking.
We must be legally efficient in everything that we do. So, carry your legal ID proofs and essential documents while room booking. When you contemplate your activities legally, it makes it difficult for anyone to challenge you on grounds of illegality. Be confident and don’t fear when booking a hotel room so that no one can blackmail you or threaten you.
In case you are an unmarried couple and decide to book a hotel room, you must carry your identification proofs with you. You are expected to produce only a valid government id proof at the time of check-in. The hotel authorities will keep a scanned copy of the ID and shall return you the original documents. You should note that while there is no law stating that unmarried couples cannot book a hotel room. However, if you and your partner are under 18 years, you cannot book a room in India. Only genuine couples who are above 18 years old can book a room.
Also, there are several websites like Oyo and StayUncle which are warming up to the evaluating need os the societies and introducing modern facilities in their policies. It is okay to book a hotel from their site, even if you are unmarried. On OYO Rooms Relationship Mode, you get to see only those listed hotels that are welcome to unmarried couples. This makes it transparent and easy for couple-guests to discover those hotels that offer them a seamless check-in upon furnishing the required ID proof. They are listed both on the website and the company’s app. These hotels allow unmarried couples even with local IDs to check-in without any hassles.
Another important development in this sector is hiring the room on an hourly basis in your city, you will be happy to see a long list popping up. The hotel industry is also warming up to the changing demands of society. Not only these hotels are good and safe, but also located in prime areas and provide all standard facilities. Whether it is for a few hours or for days, a couple can relax and enjoy themselves without being judged.
Article 15. Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth
(2) No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them, be subject to any disability, liability, restriction or condition with regard to
(a) access to shops, public restaurants, hotels and palaces of public entertainment; or
(b) the use of wells, tanks, bathing ghats, roads and places of public resort maintained wholly or partly out of State funds or dedicated to the use of the general public