Dance bar owners from Mumbai are once again pinning their hopes on the Supreme Court, which is expected to take up later today their complaint against the conditions laid down by the Maharashtra government if their want to reopen for business.
The Bar owners are set to urge the SC to stay the new rules, which they claim are ‘arbitrary and discriminatory’. Claiming that the rules are impossible to comply with, three bar owners who were given licences have not yet opened and the five others who are eligible for licences have not applied for them.
Licences issued to three bars in the city, on condition that they would comply with the stringent norms of the state authorities within 60 days, have lapsed, the state will tell the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court ordered the state to give conditional licences to eight bars in the city on May 9. While Aero Punjab and Sai Prasad in Andheri and Indiana at Tardeo were granted licences against a deposit of Rs2 lakh each, the owners of five other bars – Ratna Park, Durga Prasad, Guddi (all at Andheri), Huma Palace, Mulund and Natraj at Tilak Nagar -- did not approach the authorities.
“The three bars had to fulfill our conditions and submit a compliance report last week, when the 60-day period ended. But they failed to do so. Consequently, their licences have lapsed,” said an official form the home department.
The state will also inform the Apex court about the action taken against 28 ‘orchestra bars’ in Mumbai. The bars were raided under the new rules framed after the enactment of the law to regulate dance bars in April this year. The stringent rules has raised the annual deposit to Rs2 lakh from Rs2,000, penalty for violations related to licences to Rs25 lakh and hefty fines for insult to dignity of women working in bars.
The home department held a series of review meetings last week to prepare for the SC hearing. The department also questioned the Thane and Navi Mumbai commisionerates for not initiating action against ‘orchestra bars’. The home department officials claimed the stringent rules had not only made reopening of dance bars impossible, but even made it difficult for ‘orchestra bars’ to operate.
Dance bar owners had challenged the state government’s act of banning the dance bars by amending the Maharashtra Police Act in 2006 and 2013, and enacting a new law regulating bars in 2016.
Bharat Thakur, chairman of dance bar cell of AHAAR, said, “The new rules are so stringent that they cannot be fulfilled in any case. The rules related to timing, ban on liquor and hefty fines are imposed so the bars don’t reopen. We are demanding a stay on the new rules.”
He said that the new rules are discriminatory as, on the one hand, the government was for allowing business to keep their doors open for consumers 24x7, but, on the other, the State government had restricted var operations to between 6pm and 11.30pm.