Mumbai: The Supreme Court on Thursday paved way for the return of dance bars in Maharashtra while quashing some of the stringent restrictions imposed by the state government in 2016 that made it virtually impossible for these establishments to get licences.

The apex court, in a major relief to dance bar owners and employees, held there can be ‘regulations’ but not ‘total prohibition’ and also overturned the rule that prohibited serving alcohol in the bars. However, the bench headed by Justice AK Sikri upheld the provision restricting the timing of operation of dance bars from 6 PM to 11.30 PM and allowed tips to be directly given to the performers but disallowed showering of currency on them.

Below is the timeline of developments that led to SC ruling:

  • August 15, 2005: Maharashtra government imposes ban on operation of dance bars. The ban does not include dancing in three star-plus hotels and clubs. The same year, bar owners and associations challenged the ban in the Bombay High Court.
  • April 12, 2006: The Bombay High Court revokes the ban after noting that it was discriminatory and in violation of law. In response, Maharashtra government appeals against the HC order in Supreme Court. The apex court admits the petition.
  • July 2013: The SC upholds HC order revoking the ban.
  • 2014: Maharashtra government, instead of implementing the SC orders, amends section 33 (A) of the Maharashtra Police Act by which it prohibited dancing of any type in all bars, hotels and restaurants across the hospitality industry. Same year, the Indian Hotels and Restaurants Owners Association approaches SC challenging the amendment.
  • October 2015 and March 2016: SC strikes down the amendment prohibiting dancing of any type in all bars, hotels and restaurants.
  • 2016: Maharashtra government enacts a new law, the Maharashtra Prohibition of Obscene Dance in Hotels, Restaurants and Bar Rooms and Protection of Dignity of Women (Working therein) Act, which imposes restrictions and provisions on licensing and functioning of dance bars. Several associations challenged the new law in SC.
  • August 2018: SC concludes hearing in the matter and reserves its judgement.
  • January 17, 2019: SC paves way for reopening of dance bars and sets aside several restrictions and provisions of the 2016 Act.

On Thursday, the top court bench, while pronouncing the judgement, said, “From 2005 till date, not a single person has been given licence (for dance bars). It cannot be done. There can be regulations but it cannot amount to total prohibition.”

Further, it quashed the provision mandating that they should be 1 km away from religious places and educational institutions. The court also set aside the Maharashtra government’s ruling for mandatory installation of CCTV cameras inside dance bars, saying that it violates privacy.

(Inputs from PTI)