New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday relaxed some provisions of 2016 Maharashtra law imposing restrictions on licensing and functioning of dance bars in state. The development paves the way for their opening in Mumbai and other cities in Maharashtra.
A bench headed by Justice A K Sikri quashed certain provisions of the Maharashtra Prohibition of Obscene Dance in Hotels, Restaurants and Bar Rooms and Protection of Dignity of Women (Working therein) Act, 2016.
The top court said that there cannot be total prohibition on dance bars by imposing stringent and unreasonable conditions to get licence for dance bar.
“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,” the bench said while pronouncing the judgement.
The court also set aside the Maharashtra government’s ruling for mandatory installation of CCTV cameras inside dance bars, saying that it violates privacy.
It also quashed the rule for segregation of dancing stage from the area where are drinks are served inside the bar. The court allowed tips to performers but disallowed showering of currency on them.
Furthering easing the provisions for dance bars, it also quashed the provision mandating that they should be 1 km away from religious places and educational institutions.
On August 30 last year, the top court had issued a notice to the Maharashtra Government over the new law for dance bar licences asking it to reply within six months. The Dance Bar Regulation Bill, which was unanimously passed by the Maharashtra Assembly on April 13, also prohibited serving liquor in performance areas. It also imposed heavy penalties on dance bar owners and customers for not following these rules.
On January 11, last year, the apex court had directed the Maharashtra government to expeditiously decide the pending applications for licences to open dance bars under the old rules and the directions issued by the court from time to time.
The court had asked the authorities to keep in mind an order of November 24, 2016, in which it had asked the applicants, who have not been granted licence, to submit their applications to the authority to get the licence, and said the licences should be given to them on grounds of parity with those who have already been given.
The Maharashtra government, in an affidavit filed before the court, had earlier defended the operation of a new law meant to regulate licensing and functioning of dance 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 had said in its reply.
“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 had said.
The state government said that 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 had said.