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No HC relief for bar owners

mumbai Updated: May 04, 2011 01:29 IST
HT Correspondent

Rapping the bar and restaurant owners, the Bombay high court on Tuesday defended Maharashtra government’s stand and said they can’t be accused of gender bias nor can it be alleged that the police is acting in a high-handed manner.

The court instead suggested bar and restaurant owners to start a family restaurant if they are scared of the police. The court was hearing several petitions filed by bar and restaurant owners, who had challenged the restriction imposed on them on number of artistes in the orchestra. The petitioners had also alleged that they were being harassed by the police.

A division bench of justice DB Bhosale and justice UD Salvi said the court cannot stop the police from visiting bars at late hours since it is meant to curb illegal activities.

Justice Bhosale said: “The moment we pass such an order, the illegal activities going on in such places will get out of control. If you are so much scared of police, then you can start a family restaurant.”

RD Soni, advocate for the petitioner bar and restaurant owners argued that policemen were harassing them on the basis of draft rule, which proposes four male and four women artistes in the orchestra, and thereby amounted to gender bias. The petitioners also alleged that policemen often sit inside the bars, which intimidates customers.

Justice Bhosale said: “Prima facie, we find it difficult to accept that (argument)…. It (restriction) is not on gender. It is only on number. They (government) are treating both genders equally.”

The court even observed that if there was no restriction on numbers of women artistes in orchestra, then it would become just another version of a dance bar. “If they (government) don’t keep restriction on the number of girls, it will amount to dance bars only,” said justice Bhosale.

The judges even remarked that it was the bar and restaurant owners, who had approached the court and not the women artistes, who may be affected by this order.

“If some girls approach the court and say that we want to perform as we don’t have any male member and they (police) are not allowing us, then we can understand,” said justice Bhosale.

The high court has asked a senior police officer to be present in court on May 5.