Mumbai : Supreme Court suspended the ban on dance bars in the state of Maharashtra on thursday and paved way for reopening of such dance bars, thereby bringing back the bar dancers into mainstream of earning for a living.
However, the stay on ban has come with a caveat – stating performances will not be obscene, individual dignity of women performers must not be harmed, and in any such eventuality, the licencing authority could regulate such situations and work in favor of the women dancers.
This comes in as a relief news for the people in business of restaurants and bars which had been making a living and providing opportunity of employment to the bar dancers, the enterprises which had to shut shop of diversify into other business models ever since the ban got imposed. Now, Maharashtra’s dance bars may soon spring back to life with the Supreme Court staying the operation of a state law banning it on the condition that performances will not be obscene.
The ruling state government stated its disagreement over SC stay order, as, reacting to the order, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said the state government would press its demand in the apex court for continuing the ban on dance performances in bars and other places..
The order, however, came with a rider that performances should not be even remotely expressive of any kind of obscenity and gave the licencing authority the power to regulate those.A division bench of the court comprising Justices Dipak Misra and Prafulla Chandra Pant stated that the step has been very approriate and in a proper direction wherein the provisions section 33 (A)(1) of the Maharashtra Police (second amendment) Act of the order would come as a big relief to thousands of bar dancers and restaurateurs. The bench added the rider, saying, 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 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.
The Maharashtra government had in 2005 brought an amendment to the Bombay Police Act to ban dance performances in bars on the grounds of obscenity and that it was promoting prostitution which was challenged in high court by an association representing restaurants and bars. In support of this amendment, the state police had cracked down on dance performances in bars for the first time in 2005. Elite establishments, including five star hotels, were, however, exempted. Thereafter, the state brought in a law banning dance performances in all establishments.The Bombay high court quashed the government’s decision in April 2006 and declared the provision as unconstitutional, holding it was against Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution which allows citizens to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business. The state government had moved the Apex court against the high court’s order the same year. The Supreme Court upheld the Bombay high court verdict in July 2013 quashing the state government’s order and said the ban violated the constitutional right to earn a living.