The Mumbai police’s social service branch (SSB) has registered 13 cases in 25 days against so-called orchestra bars.
According to the police, these bars operate as dance bars despite not having valid licences under the government’s new dance bar law.
The new law, called the Maharashtra Prohibition of Obscene Dance in Hotels, Restaurants and Bar Rooms and Protection of Dignity of Women (working therein) Act, 2016, which has been roundly criticised by dance bar owners, puts severe restrictions on them and gives the police sweeping powers to act on complaints of obscenity.
So far, only three bars – Indiana Bar at Tardeo, and Aero Punjab and Sai Prasad at Andheri – have received licenses under the strict new law, but none have opened to the public.
The new law also says that four women waitresses are allowed in orchestra bars until 9.30pm, but none after that, so SSB officials raid such bars after 9.30pm.
Officials from the SSB said women were found to dancing ‘obscenely’ in most of the 13 establishments. Citing the ambiguity over what constitutes obscenity, the officials secretly shot videos of dancers before raiding the establishments.
The SSB rescued 95 women dancers and arrested 300 people, including customers, waiters, managers and other employees from the 13 establishments, said police inspector Pravin Kadam.
“The raids are planned on the basis of tip-offs that we receive. Strong evidence is required. If we simply barge into any bar, the obscene dancing stops suddenly and the women pick up trays, pretending to be waitresses. However, they cannot hide the money thrown at the dancers. We also capture the dancers on video,” said an SSB officer, who did not wish to be named.