Thursday, January 17, 2019

Supreme Court paves way for opening of dance bars in Mumbai

The Supreme Court on Thursday relaxed stringent conditions imposed by the state government for getting licences for dance bars, paving the way for their opening in Mumbai and other cities in Maharashtra.
The top court said that there cannot be total prohibition on dance bars by imposing unreasonable conditions as no licence has been granted by state since 2005 and no dance bar is running today in the state.
An apex court bench headed by Justice A K Sikri also set aside the Maharashtra government's ruling for mandatory installation of CCTV camera inside dance bars, saying it "violates" privacy.
The court also quashed the Maharashtra Prohibition of Obscene Dance in Hotels, Restaurants and Bar. Rooms and Protection of Dignity of Women (Working therein) Act, which called for the segregation of dancing stage from the area where drinks are served inside bar.
On the state government's rule that only people with "good character" should be allowed to obtain dance bar license, the court said that it is difficult to define "good character.
The court also took a decision on the use of money inside the bar. "Tips can be given but showering of cash and coins is not allowed inside bars," it said.
The apex court also termed the state government's decision prohibiting dance bars from being present within one kilometer radius of educational institutes and religious places, saying that it is "unreasonable".
Though the court quashed the state government's prohibition on serving of liquor inside the dance bars, it upheld the decision allowing them to operate only from 6.00 pm to 11.30 pm.
In August last year, the court reserved its verdict on the pleas of hotel and restaurant owners challenging the 2016 Maharashtra law.
Earlier, the petitioners told the bench that the state government tried to circumvent a previous order of the apex court by bringing in the new 2016 law on conditions for operation of dance bars.
Hotel and restaurant owners argued that the state government adopted an attitude that it will not permit operations of dance bars irrespective of orders passed by the apex court.
On January 11, 2017, the apex court directed the Maharashtra government to expeditiously decide the pending applications for licences to open
bars under the old rules and the directions issued by the court from time to time.
The Maharashtra government, in an affidavit filed before the court, defended the operation of a new law meant to regulate licensing and functioning of
bars in the state.
"It was observed that such dances were derogatory to the dignity of women and were likely to deprave, corrupt or injure public morality," the state government said.
"It was also brought to the notice of the state government that the places where such dances were staged were used as places for immoral activities and also as a place for solicitation for the purpose of prostitution," it said.
The state government said prevention of obscenity in public places is a part of public policy in India and was reflected in provision of Indian Penal Code (IPC).
"Maharashtra Prohibition of Obscene
Dance in Hotels, Restaurants and Bar
Rooms and Protection of Dignity of Women (working therein) Act, 2016 gives effect to such Public Policy," it said.

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