The Supreme Court on Thursday relaxed the conditions imposed by the Maharashtra government to obtain licences for dance bars, paving the way for such establishments to be opened in Mumbai and other cities, ANI reported.
A bench headed by Justice AK Sikri upheld some sections of the Maharashtra Prohibition of Obscene Dance in Hotels, Restaurants and Bar Rooms and Protection of Dignity of Women Act, 2016, while setting aside several others. It ruled that tips can be given to performers but customers cannot shower cash and coins inside the bars. It also allowed orchestras and upheld the time of five-and-a-half hours for dance performances.
The court set aside the provision that there must be a partition between bar rooms and the dance floor, and ruled that liquor can be served in bars. It quashed a provision of the Act that said dance bars should be 1 km away from educational and religious places. The court also set aside the rule to make CCTV cameras mandatory inside the premises, saying it violates privacy.
Observing that no dance bar has been granted licence by the Maharashtra government since 2005, the court said, “There may be regulations, but that should not amount to total prohibition.” Hotel and restaurant owners had argued that the state government adopted an attitude that it will not permit operations of dance bars irrespective of the top court’s orders, PTI reported.
The top court upheld a rule that said working women should have a contract to avoid exploitation but quashed another one that provided for a monthly salary for the dancers. It is not sustainable, the court said.
The Maharashtra Prohibition of Obscene Dance in Hotels, Restaurants and Bar Rooms and Protection of Dignity of Women Act, 2016, was challenged by hotel and restaurant owners, bar girls, and others in separate petitions. It came into effect two years after the Supreme Court ruled that dance bars should be allowed and workers there should be treated as professionals.
In its affidavit to the court, the government contended that dances in such bars are derogatory to the dignity of women and “were likely to deprave, corrupt or injure public morality”. “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,” the affidavit said.
In August, the court had asked the Maharashtra government to explain why it had not granted licences to even a single dance bar after its many orders. “It seems like total moral policing is going on in the state,” the court had said. The judges said the definition of obscenity had changed with the times and even live-in relationships were now being accepted in society.