The Supreme Court restrained the Maharashtra government on Monday from reducing the 60-day time period fixed for three Mumbai dance bars to abide by the new licence rules after the owners complained the stringent regulations made it difficult for them to operate.
A bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra ordered the bar owners to start their restaurants and fixed July 7 to hear their grievances. With regard to five more bars, the court asked the state to process their applications and respond to them. “Inform them if there are any shortcomings,” the court told the state counsel.
On the last hearing, the SC said it is better for women to work as bar dancers with dignity rather than begging on the streets or indulging in unacceptable activities. The bench advised the Maharashtra government to regulate dancing and not prohibit it.
The state was pulled up 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 said the state is determined to prohibit dance bars, which it reiterated will be unconstitutional.
“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 bench said.
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 the bar owners to record the performances, which the SC on an earlier hearing disallowed.
It directed the local police to process applications received from bar owners for verification of their employees. The SC is hearing a petition filed by hotel and restaurant association against state’s direction to provide a live feed of the dance to the nearest police station.