The Supreme Court on Tuesday termed Maharashtra government’s move to make it mandatory for dance bar owners to provide a live feed to the nearest police station through a CCTV recording as “absurd” and said it not only impinged one’s right to privacy but also violated the fundamental right to carry out a profession.
“We cannot expect a CCTV in a bar. It is highly embarrassing for anybody to be seen drinking. Some people even object to be being photographed while eating in restaurants. There is a right to privacy everywhere,” a bench of justice Dipak Misra and justice Shiva Kirti Singh observed when it was informed about the clause in the new licence conditions for dance bars issued by the state.
Referring to the SC’s 2014 verdict that revived dance bars in the state after the top court quashed an executive order that banned it, the bench said: “There are many women who feel that this is an avenue for them as they may not be able to do other professions. They have a right to profession. That right has to be respected. We have to respect that right. It is possible that this is also source of livelihood for transgenders.”
The judges told additional solicitor general Pinky Anand that the administration should clamp down on obscenity, if there is any, and not view dance as a form of vulgarity. “It’s an art and has to be understood as an art bereft of obscenity. If it ceases to be an art, then you can regulate. It seems you haven’t recognized them as artists,” the bench told Anand, who insisted one loses the right to privacy at a public place.
Justice Misra observed “every individual has his own taste, style of eating or drinking and certainly would not like to be photographed or videographed.” The bench finally prevailed upon Anand, who agreed to review the conditions and come back to the court by March 1, the next date of hearing.
The judges were also amused to learn that the administration had also stipulated an opaque partition around the stage where the performers will dance. They also ridiculed certain other restrictions imposed by the Devendra Fadnavis government such as a four-feet partition between the dance stage area and eating enclosure within the bar and police verification of every employee working in these dance bars.
Anand defended the stipulations, contending these conditions were brought in to prevent soliciting (of women for prostitution). “They have been exploited,” she argued.
But, the bench said the SC verdict had laid down the constitutional parameters on the issue. “Its very difficult to remove the basis of the judgement. You must regulate it and not interfere,” it said.
The court pointed out the new conditions appeared to have been brought in only to circumvent the judgment of the SC.
The bench then told Anand if the government was unable to remove the conditions, the court shall be forced to stay it. “Who is this public for whom you are making a regulation. If a lady does not want to go to the bar let her not go to the bar. If people don’t want to go to bar let them not go” it told the law officer.