“Why put women in a cage?” questioned the Bombay high court while hearing a petition challenging the section 33 of the Bombay Shops and Establishment Act, which restrains women employees from working beyond 9.30pm.
Suggesting that the provision discriminates against women, a division bench of justice Ranjana Desai and justice RV More asked the government: “How can you support something like this? It’s a faulty provision. The presumption is that after certain hours it is not safe for women to work,” the judges said, adding, “If security is deemed to be provided to everyone else, then it should also be provided to the women.”
The petition had been filed by Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association (AHAR)- an association of women working in liquor bars. It was challenging the restriction on bar waitresses.
Their counsel, Veena Thadani, argued that the provision is discriminatory and liable to be struck down. She said that the act is applicable in towns with a population of more than 25,000, and asked if this implied that the security of women in smaller towns and cities was not important.
The lawyer contended that female customers were allowed in bars till 1.30 am, and a female owner is not only allowed but also required to be present in the bar. Woman artistes are also allowed to work till 1.30 am, she added.Why not allow waitresses then, she argued, and said that work forms a part of the fundamental right to livelihood, and is equally applicable to both genders.
Senior advocate VC Kotwal, representing the State , said the activity of liquor bars was restricted and one couldn’t move a court saying he wants to enter into this business claiming it to be a fundamental right to livelihood. HC will hear the case on Tuesday.