Not just people’s mindset, but even laws need to be changed with the changing times, observed the Bombay High Court while hearing petitions challenging the 9.30-pm deadline for women employees at bars and restaurants.
In 2008, the Womanist Organisation of India, the Bharatiya Bar Girls’ Union and the Indian Hotel & Restaurant Association had moved the high court seeking the deadline for women working in bars and restaurants be abolished.
Hindustan Times was the first to report in October 2008 when these petitions were filed challenging the Bombay Shops and
Establishments Act, 1948, which restricts women from working in establishments after 9.30 pm.
The petitions also challenged the provision of the Bombay Prohibition Act, 1949, which prohibits women from working in permit rooms and bars after 8.30 pm.
During Thursday’s hearing, Justice F.I. Rebello said: “It is the mindset of people that women who work late at such places are sex slaves. It’s a question of morality. This approach needs to be changed.”
A division bench of Justice Rebello and Justice Amjad Sayed even remarked that if the deadline was imposed on women for their protection, then it should be done for men as well. “Even men could be targets of violence [at night],” said Justice Rebello.
Counsel for the petitioners, Ashutosh Kumbhkoni, argued that the government had granted exemption to three-star and five-star establishments. “However, the government has not given any reason for granting such exemption,” he argued.
The affidavit filed by Senior Police Inspector (hotel branch) Pandit Kale said most bar premises are not suitable for women to work because they are not provided with basic amenities. Besides, the members of the petitioners have been found violating provisions of law and behaving indecently on several occasions, the affidavit added.
The high court will hear the government’s arguments on April 6.