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Maharashtra's dance bar blues

With the High Court verdict setting aside the ban on the dance bars in the city, the state government is desperately looking for alternate ways to muzzle them.

india Updated: Apr 19, 2006 03:30 IST

With the High Court verdict setting aside the ban on the dance bars in the city, the state government is desperately looking for alternate ways to muzzle them. The most likely instrument for this, it seems, could be the strict implementation of the Shops and Establishments Act.

Sources said when the dance bars begin to function after the eight-week deadline given to the state government to file its appeal against the HC order, they would be up against Section 33 (3) of the Gumastha Act.

According to it, women cannot work in commercial/business establishments beyond 9.30 pm. The deadline was 8.30 pm earlier and had been extended to 9.30 pm by an amendment to the Act in 2005 after women's groups protested against it.

Sources said once bar dancers are prevented from performing after 9.30 pm -the usual time the late night joints begin business - they will be forced to shut shop.

But the government has another problem in enforcing this. Apart from the Shop and Establishments Act, dance bars are issued licences from various departments, including the police. They get a performance licence for 'cultural dance', which has a deadline till 12.30 am. To work around the deadline, "an amendment to the deadline needs to be effected," sources added.

Moreover, the strict implementation of the Gumastha Act itself would run up into several practical problems. To begin with, the department concerned in the BMC has to look after as many as 4.12 lakh establishments in the city. It has just 109 officers for this. Interestingly, 25 of the 109 posts are still vacant. "With 700 odd bars we would need additional men to enforce strict implementation of the license conditions," sources added.

And for that, sources in the Home department said, the government may have to just divert a substantial part of the local police to assist the BMC.