The Maharashtra government seems determined to impose strict conditions while regulating dance bars in the state, some of which may prove to be impossible to fulfil.
Despite the SC’s adverse ruling, the state may make CCTV cameras compulsory inside the bars and restrict operations to 11.30pm, besides banning bars within a kilometre of any religious or educational institution. This may prove to be a major hurdle in reopening dance bars as almost all the areas in the MMR have such institutions.
In the draft of the new bill discussed in the first meeting of the 25-member committee led by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Tuesday, a hefty penalty that goes up to Rs 25 lakh and imprisonment of five years for a bar operator violating the rules has also been proposed.
ustomers above the age of 21 will have to produce an identity card before entering the premises. Although it is not part of the existing draft of the bill — Maintenance of the Dignity of the Women Working in the Hotel, Restaurant and Bar Bill 2016 — the committee also discussed the possibility of completely banning liquor in the performance area, said a minister who is part of the committee.
According to officers from the home department, such rigorous conditions may help the government keep the bar shutters down forever. “The revenue department had amended the law a few years ago, to bring the distance to be maintained between religious/educational institutions down to 50m and 75m from 100m. Increasing it again to 1km would mean ruling out the possibility of such bars in bigger cities. Similarly, though the Supreme Court had struck down the compulsion of CCTVs inside the bars. We are making it compulsory by categorising bars as public places. If the restaurants at five-star hotels that are considered as public places install CCTVs for the safety of customers, why not the bars?” the official said.
“Though the SC had ruled against CCTVs inside the bars, the government, in its purview can enact the law making it compulsory. The provision will be seconded on the ground of the parity between starred hotels and bars,” said another minister, who is a member of the committee.
The draft has also made it compulsory to preserve CCTV footage for 30 days and be produced on demand by enforcement authorities.
The owners of the bars, according to the draft, will be held directly responsible for any violation of the rules, compromise with the dignity of the women working in the establishment or obscenity/vulgarity inside the premises. “In case of an illegal operation, the owner could face imprisonment up to five years, with a penalty of Rs 25 lakh, while the obscenity and vulgarity may lead to a penalty of Rs10 lakh and imprisonment of three years. The showering of coins and currency notes and indecent behaviour with the dance girls may lead to punishment up to six months with a penalty of Rs50,000,” the draft states.
Although showering of currency notes is not allowed, performers are entitled for a tip by customers in the bars.
As reported by the Hindustan Times, on March 7, the girls performing at bars would be entitled to a monthly salary, provident fund, free home drop and working hours until 9.30pm if she wishes so. The draft also makes it compulsory for the owner of the bar to maintain details, including name, education, citizenship, age of the employees, besides compulsory biometric attendance.
The SC, in its orders between October 2015 and March 2016, had lifted the ban imposed by the state government in 2005 and then in 2014 by amending the laws.
The committee of lawmakers has been instructed to submit their suggestions and recommendations on the draft prepared by the home department. Once the acceptable suggestions are incorporated and the draft is finalised, the bill will be tabled in both houses of legislature. Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis told the committee that the government was determined to table the bill in the ongoing session.