Refusing to interfere with the draft rules framed by the state government imposing restrictions on the number of artistes in orchestra of restaurant and bars, the Bombay high court expressed apprehension and said it would otherwise convert them into dance bars. The court said rules imposed by the state were necessary for safety of women artistes.
A division bench of justice DB Bhosale and justice UD Salvi also did not agree with the arguments forwarded by bar and restaurant owners that restriction was violating the fundamental rights of women under Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
The petitions filed by several bar and restaurant owners had challenged the state government’s restrictions on the number of artistes in the orchestra. They had also alleged harassment by the police.
“We do not find any need to interfere with the rules. We feel there is rationale behind imposing such conditions,” said justice Bhosale.
Advocate for the petitioners, RD Soni argued that there was absolutely no basis in rules or any statute of deciding the number of four males and four women artistes in the orchestra. “Also there is no nexus to the purpose sought to be achieved by restraining it to eight artistes,” he said.
Justifying need for more artistes, Soni said that some bars may have bigger space and hence bigger stage. To this, justice Bhosale said that in any normal orchestra, women artistes usually sing. “We will be happy of they [women] are playing [musical] instruments, but even then there is no need to increase the number of women artistes,” said justice Bhosale.
Soni argued: “The government’s reasoning that government’s rules is meant to protect to women and are providing safety is not true. Such an action is taking away their right of performing.” Justice Bhosale disagreed and said, “We are more concerned about safety of women who work late. Deadline of 9-9.30pm can be understood.”
Soni said that under the Shops and Establishments Act, waitresses were not allowed to work in the bars after 9.30pm. It is only women artistes, who are allowed till 1.30am, he said. Justice Bhosale said: “We don’t know what activity you may do after midnight. You may turn it into a dance bar. We can’t allow you to do that under the guise of this license (permitting more women artistes).”