The Supreme Court on Monday said that it is better for women to work with dignity as bar dancers rather than begging on streets or indulging in unacceptable activities.
The court also asked the Maharashtra government to regulate and not prohibit bar dancing.
A bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Shiva Kirti Singh pulled up the state government for framing new rules under which dance bars cannot operate within a kilometre of an educational institution. They were upset when told there was no such condition to grant liquor licences and said the state was determined to prohibit dance bars, which the bench reiterated would be unconstitutional.
“Dance is a profession. It becomes legally impermissible if it becomes obscene. There are other regulatory mechanisms. Don’t work with the mindset of prohibiting it,” the bench told additional solicitor general Pinky Anand, asking her to advise the state that it “cannot take away someone’s constitutional right”.
“It’s better for women to perform in dance bars than beg on streets or indulge in unacceptable activities,” the bench said.
On April 13, the Maharashtra Assembly had unanimously passed the Dance Bar Regulation Bill, which has provisions for stringent actions against violators. It was notified on April 20. One of the conditions mandates bar owners to record the performances, which the SC on an earlier hearing disallowed. On being informed of the rule by the association of hotels and restaurants, the bench told Anand, “How can you record the dance? Have a regulatory mechanism in place, do surprise checks, send your police team, but no recording.” Anand promised to revert after consulting state officers.
The bench took strong exception to authorities denying licences to restaurants on the ground they did not get health clearance certificates from the civic agency. “How can a restaurant run without such a clearance,” the bench noted, saying bars that already have certificates need not apply again.
It directed local police to process applications received from bar owners for verification of their employees. The bench said the verification for criminal antecedents must be completed within a week to enable owners to apply for a licence.
The court is hearing a petition filed by hotel and restaurant associations against the state’s direction to provide a live feed of the dance to the nearest police station. SC had stayed the rules and ordered authorities to give licences. Though the state has repealed the rule under a challenge before SC, its latest set of guidelines has come under judicial scrutiny.