Despite repeated defeats in Supreme Court over last decade, the state government is determined to keep the shutters of the dace bar down. The reason : The Bhartiya Janata Party-led state government does not want to be blamed for the reopening of the bars which were shut in Congress and Nationalist Congress Party regime for ten years.
The Supreme Court in 2013 upheld the Bombay High Court order of quashing the state government decision of banning the dance bars in Maharashtra. A year after the ban imposed by the government by amending Maharashtra Police Act to ban the bars, Bombay High Court quashed the ban saying it was against the provisions of the
Constitution. Though the ban was quashed immediately after it was imposed, erstwhile Congress-NCP government could buy the time for eight years, till it was finally struck down in the Supreme Court.
Former home minister and NCP leader late RR Patil was largely credited for the ban on the bars and decision was reportedly well received by the people of the state. The decision of banning the bars was then supported by the legislators from all the parties –including the incumbent ministers who were then in opposition- in 2005, as most of
them were convinced about the ill effects of the bars and that the young generation was at the receiving end due to the menace.
The legislators would cite the examples of exploitation of the women, their indulgence in immoral activities, meeting points for criminals in Mumbai Metropolitan Region, where most of these bars were operational. Most of the bars were in the suburbs of the Navi Mumbai and the elected representatives from the area would claim how local youth were spoilt due to the illegal operations of the bars. The youth were from the Agari community families that had got lakhs of rupees towards the compensation for their land when CIDCO developed the region.
On this backdrop RR Patil received support from across the state and to his credit, the government could retain the doors shut for the bars till end of the Congress-NCP tenure in 2014. The Maharashtra Police Act was amended for the second time, by amending section 33(A)(1), to which the SC had termed claiming it to be against the fundamental rights of the girls working in them discriminatory.
The SC struck the amendment down, in October 2015 and then in March 2016 and directed the government to allow the bars to reopen by containing obscenity.
“If the new BJP government failed to keep the bars shut, it would send a wrong message among the people and give the opposition an opportunity to criticize that the new government was responsible for the reopening of the bars. Many provisions in new bill, too, are unlikely to stand on legal grounds and are likely to be challenged in the SC,” said an official from the home department.
The officer said that the legal experts and officials from the law and judiciary department while advising on the new bill have warned that the government should be ready to fight the legal battle ahead. “Even the then advocate genera Darius Khambata had advised for the new regulatory bill instead of going for the second amendement after SC
quahed the decision in 2013. Khambata had clearly told the government that the amendment was not tenable. The draft prepared by Khambata has now been incorporate in the new bill,” he said.
According to a senior BJP minister, the new bill is vulnerable on the legal ground, but the government was ready to fight it in the court. “Even if it is struck down, we will get time to keep the shutters down of bars,” he said.
Similarly, the community involved in the bar and permit room business has never been the supporter of the ruling party and hence it is unlikely that the they will get any political patronage.