Stating that it is better for women to work as bar dancers with dignity than beg on the streets or indulge in unacceptable activities, the Supreme Court on Monday asked the Maharashtra government to regulate the profession and not prohibit it.
A bench of justices Dipak Misra and Shiva Kirti Singh was hearing a petition filed by a hotel and restaurant association against the state’s direction to provide a live feed of the dance to the nearest police station.
Here are some of the stinging observations the apex court made.
“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 court 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 begging on streets or indulging in unacceptable activities,” the bench headed by justice Dipak Misra said.
“How can you record the dance? Have a regulatory mechanism in place, do surprise checks, send your police team but no recording,” the court told the law officer, who promised to revert after consulting Maharashtra government officials.
The Dance Bar Regulation Bill
On April 13, the Maharashtra Assembly had unanimously passed the Dance Bar Regulation Bill, which has provisions for stringent actions against the violators. It was notified on April 20.
One of the conditions mandates that bar owners record performances, which the court had in fact disallowed in an earlier hearing. On being informed about the rule by the association of hotels and restaurants, the bench frowned upon the additional solicitor general.
As per the new law, owners or operators face up to five years in jail and up to Rs 25,000 in fine for violations. The new conditions also restrict bar timings to between 6pm and 11.30pm, and stipulate no liquor will be served in the performance area.
The court also pulled up the state for framing new rules under which dance bars cannot operate within one kilometre of an educational institution. It got upset when told there is no such condition to grant liquor license and observed that the state is determined to prohibit dance bars, which it reiterated will be unconstitutional.