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No Bar on the Bar-dance

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Supreme Court allows dance and liquor to go together

Erasing stringent rules and striking down the laws imposed by the state, the top court on Thursday said that rave and alcohol could go jointly and permitted the bars to function from 6 pm to 11.30 pm. The court also cancelled a provision mandating that dance bars in the state should be 1 km away from religious places and educational institutions saying that it is not reasonable in Mumbai and that the legislature must take a decision on this. The Supreme Court further stated that the Performers at the dance bars can be paid tips but cannot be showered with cash. The court also cancelled the rule of a partition between the barrooms and dance floor.

The Maharashtra government on August 15, 2005, had banned all the dance bars in Mumbai to “prevent immoral activities, trafficking of women and to ensure the safety of women in general” that led to the shutting down of around 700 dance bars across Mumbai and Maharashtra. The ban also pushed nearly many bar girls out of jobs, reportedly forcing many into prostitution to earn their living.

Later, in 2006, the order of the Maharashtra government was challenged in the Bombay HC stating the ban is a violation of the constitutional right to equality and the right to practice any profession respectively and the apex court overturned the order. However, the government in 2014 amended Section 33A of the Maharashtra Police Act and imposed a total ban on the dance bars. ‘The dance bars were obscene and acted as a pick up point for vulnerable girls,’ the government argued.

Maharashtra’s Minister of State for Home Deepak Kesarkar spoke to AV and stated, “Whatever the judiciary decides, the government makes sure to implement it. Many of our requests are accepted by the Supreme Court and the prohibition of showering of currency is a favourable decision as argued by the government. People used to spend their entire income in the dance bars and that led to their family suffering, it was a big concern for us. Human trafficking is a different issue and someone willing to be a part of this profession (bar dancer) is different. The Police department has always been keeping a watch on the human trafficking cases and in case if a crime takes place, immediate action will be taken.”

The Dance Bar Regulation Bill, that was unanimously passed by the Maharashtra Assembly in 2014, among other things, prohibited serving liquor in performance areas and mandates that the premises must shut by 11:30 pm. It also imposes heavy penalties on the dance bar owners and the customers for not following these rules.

When Afternoon Voice contacted Social worker Varsha Kale, who is been fighting for the Bar girls’ rights, she told, “This verdict will pour life in many ladies in this profession and they will not be trapped in the sex trade.” After the Supreme Court order, Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis stated, “The government still favours the ban on the dance bars, however, we also respect the Supreme Court order.” “If the rules are approved, then every dance bar in the city will have to follow the given protocol and timings,” Fadnavis added.

Ashok Torde, who is not only a tailor and designer of the bar dancers’ outfits but also a fan of dances, called the Supreme Court intervention a good step to stop the deliberate attempt of the state government to prevent the dance bars getting reopened. “By doing this, the police was making its arrangement of extra income while they were allowed to watch it live in their police stations monitoring through CCTV. Moreover, the Police used to harass and blackmail the visitors. Now there is a big relief.”

Pramodanna Shetty, a Mumbai resident, expressed, “It is the Police who make a lot of money from the dance bars and they come and go whenever they feel free; as they used to get live telecast through surveillance cameras, they would have stayed away from entering physically into the bars. We have no problem but the government should assure and ensure that these police personnel will not stalk bar staff owners or the dancers for their own pleasure and interest.”

On the condition of anonymity a police personnel said, “Whether the live telecast is given in the police station or not, each department and station remains well-updated and informed about the bar activities by their informers. Moreover, many police personnel are avid visitors of the bars and are addicted to bar dance.”

Vijay Salgaonkar

(Any suggestions, comments or dispute with regards to this article send us on [email protected])
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