Staying the 2014 amendment in the Maharashtra Police Act, the Supreme Court on Thursday has removed the ban on dance performances in bars and other places across the state. The move thus now paves the way for reopening of dance bars in Maharashtra. The interim order was given by the bench comprising of Justices Dipak Misra and Prafulla Chandra Pant, which said:
“We think it appropriate to stay the provisions section 33 (A)(1) of the Maharashtra Police (second amendment) Act” that prohibits the dance performances.
The said provision was brought back in the Maharashtra Police Act in 2014 after being held ultra vires in 2013 by the top court.
While the court’s interim order brought relief to many dance bar owners and dancers across the state, the court added a rider that now allows the licensing authorities to regulate indecent dance performances at bars and other places.
The order in this regard said:
“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 final hearing of the apex court has now been fixed for November 5 but has said that the matter pertaining to the similar issue had already been decided by this court in 2013.
Reacting to the latest development, Maharashtra CM Fadnavis said he was not happy and told ANI
“Although SC interim order mandates regulation instead of ban on dance bars, government still favours ban. We will examine and press demand in SC.”
He, however, maintained that the state will work in accordance with SC order so that there is no obscenity in the dance bars. The Indian Hotels and Restaurant Association, which had challenged the 2014 amendment in the Maharashtra Police Act, welcomed the Supreme Court order staying operation of the amendment. AHAR member Manjit Singh Sethi told PTI
: “The way Maharashtra government had put a blanket ban by sidelining all the rules, we were sure to win and that’s what Supreme Court has upheld our view today.” The dance bars were shut down in 2005 when then home minister R.R. Patil signed the relevant orders. Overnight, 300 official dance bars and around 3,000 illegal establishments in Mumbai were shut down – or converted to regular eateries or liquor bars. In a single shot, an estimated 60,000 dancers (from the 300 legal dance bars) and another around six lakh in unofficial dance bars were rendered jobless or reassigned as waitresses. Besides, another 2,400 dance bars in other parts of the state, mainly in Thane, Navi Mumbai, Raigad and Pune, also faced the axe, leaving more than six lakh women unemployed.