In a significant judgement that will address the demands of hotel owners and bar girls, the Supreme Court on January 17 modified some provisions of the 2016 Maharashtra law that imposed restrictions on licensing and functioning of dance bars in the state. The court ruled that there cannot be “total prohibition” but some “regulations.” The relaxation of conditions would mean that more such establishments could be opened in Mumbai and other cities.
In its ruling, a bench headed by Justice A K Sikri, said that tips can be given to performers but customers cannot shower cash and coins inside the bars. The court also allowed liquor to be served in bars but decided against the installation of CCTV cameras inside the premises saying it violates privacy.
The bench 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 Act has been challenged by hotel and restaurant owners, bar girls, and others in separate petitions.
The court also upheld the condition fixing the timing of dance bars in the state from 6 pm to 11.30 pm. However, it cancelled the rule of a partition between bar rooms and dance floor.
The bench said while pronouncing the judgement:
“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 judges said the definition of obscenity had changed with the times and even live-in relationships were now being accepted in society.
The court also quashed the provision mandating that dance bars in Maharashtra should be one kilometre away from religious places and educational institutions.
Last year, the state government was questioned by the SC over denial of licences to dance bars and wondered if the state had resorted to moral policing. In its reply, the state government has said that dance bars are “against the culture of Maharashtra” and that “social stigma” has a “negative impact on youngsters”. In 2005, the Maharashtra government had imposed a ban on dance bars, which sent 75,000 dancers out of work.