Supreme Court however added a rider to its interim order and allowed the licensing authorities in the State to regulate indecent dance performances at bars and other places.
Mumbai’s night life is all set to become more vibrant after Supreme Court lifted the ban on dance bars in Maharashtra. The apex court stayed the operation of 2014 amendment in the Maharashtra Police Act that had banned dance performances at bars and some other places. The state government had banned dance bars in 2005 saying that these establishments were responsible for rising crime and prostitution activities in the metropolis. During that time around 600 dance bars were functioning in the city. Some of them continued to operate under police patronage, but most gradually shut down.
Referring to the brief history of judicial pronouncement in the case and subsequent amendment in the State law, a Bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra and Prafulla Chandra Pant said “We think it appropriate to stay the provisions section 33 (A)(1) of the Maharashtra Police (second amendment) Act.”
The court however added a rider to its interim order and allowed the licensing authorities in the State to regulate indecent dance performances at bars and other places.
“However, we have a rider that no performance of dance will be remotely expressive of any kind of obscenity…the licensing authority can regulate such dance performances so that individual dignity of woman performer is not harmed,” the Bench said.
The Indian Hotels and Restaurant Association, welcomed the Supreme Court order staying operation of the amendment.
“The way Maharashtra government had put a blanket ban by sidelining all the rules, we were sure to win and that’s what Supreme Court has upheld our view today,” Indian Hotels and Restaurant Association (AHAR) member Manjit Singh Singh Sethi.
“The attitude of the government towards us was so biased that when in 2014 the ban was lifted, we applied to renew our license but that too was quashed,” he alleged.
When asked what would be his further course of action, Singh said, “First we would wait for the details of the Supreme Court order and then decide. But prior to that, we would reapply before the state government and police authorities for the endorsement of licence to run dance bars.”
Meanwhile, the Bar Girls’ Association cautiously welcomed the decision and said it now hopes for a suitable, quick and positive action from the present state government.
“We have not forgotten that when a blanket ban on dance bars was imposed by flouting all our rights, the present government led by BJP, which was in opposition those days, had supported the ban,” Bar Girls’ Association general secretary Varsha Kale said.
The apex court has now fixed the petition filed by Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association for final hearing on November 5 and said that the matter pertaining to the similar issue had already been decided by this court in 2013.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said that his government still favoured ban on dance bars.
Fadnavis tweeted: “Although SC interim order mandates regulation instead of ban on dance bars, government still favours ban. We will examine and press our demand in SC.”
The Maharashtra government had reintroduced the law in 2014 to bypass an SC judgment which had struck down a similar law a year ago. The SC had in April 2013 upheld the right of women bar dancers to follow their profession and dismissed the state government’s appeal to ban them.