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Saturday, Aug 24, 2019

Police reject all fresh licence applications to operate dance bars in Mumbai

City police inspect bars, say applicants did not fulfil the 26 court-approved conditions, or submit fire safety compliance certificates to get licences

mumbai Updated: Oct 25, 2017 16:35 IST
Debasish Panigrahi
Debasish Panigrahi
Hindustan Times
Dance bar owners and the Maharashtra government have been fighting the issue in court for more than a decade now.
Dance bar owners and the Maharashtra government have been fighting the issue in court for more than a decade now.(HT File)

Dance bars will not reopen in the city anytime in the near future, as the Mumbai police have rejected all 79 applications that they received for fresh licences, following a Supreme Court order in November 2016.

The hearing on the petition to stay the law that makes dance bars almost impossible to operate in Maharashtra, scheduled for April this year, has been deferred till January 2018, said advocate Satyajit Saha, who is representing the dance bar association in the apex court. The hearing was postponed as the judges deciding on the matter are currently part of a five-member Constitutional bench that is hearing an important case.

Following the SC ruling on November 24, 2016 — it asked the state government to consider granting licences to dance bars if they are at par with the three dance bars that have already been granted licence — the police had received 79 applications till this July. By last month all applications were rejected, and there are no new pending applications now.

The applications were rejected because of “negative” non-compliance reports from police stations in their respective areas after inspections, a source at the police headquarters, which issues such licences, said. “None of the applicants fulfilled the 26 court-approved conditions that would make them eligible for licences to operate dance bars,” the official said.

The 12-year battle
  • 2005: Dance bars are banned in Maharashtra in August 2005, with the passing of the Maharashtra Police (Amendment) Act, 2005.
  • 2006: The ban is struck down by Bombay High Court in 2006, which states that the amendment is “unconstitutional”. SC admits state’s petition challenging this verdict, and continues stay on granting of licences.
  • 2013: The SC upholds the high court verdict in July 2013, says dance bars can reapply for licences. However, licences are not processed by the police, and bar owners send reminder notice, threaten to file contempt petition in SC. The police say they are awaiting instructions from state.
  • 2014: The state bans dance bars once again by bringing in an ordinance in June 2014. Bar owners file a petition in apex court challenging it, allege that state has disregarded SC ruling. Court sends notice to state in September, asking for response.
  • 2015: In February, SC issues second notice to government seeking its reply. In October, the SC stays the 2014 law, calling it unconstitutional, and paves the way for dance bars to reopen.
  • 2016: State Assembly passes new law in May, the Maharashtra Prohibition of Obscene Dance in Hotels, Restaurants and Bar Rooms and Protection of Dignity of Women Act, 2016, to circumvent judgment. Bar owners challenge it in July. In September, SC rejects many “draconian” conditions in the law, accepts 26. In an interim order in November, it allows dance bars to submit licence applications to the police. The police ask inspectors to check bars that have applied for licences and submit compliance report. They ask applicants to submit fire safety compliance reports.
  • 2017: By July, the police receive 79 applications for fresh licences, which are rejected following negative compliance reports. The hearing on the petition in SC is likely to resume in January 2018.

After the court order, the Mumbai police headquarters asked senior inspectors of police stations in areas where the bars were to be located to conduct inspections and determine whether the applicants met the 26 conditions. These include facilities to maintain a five-feet distance between customers and the performance area, a three-foot-high barricade around the stage, and installation of CCTV cameras at the bar’s entry and exit points, among other things.

Besides this, the police had also asked all applicants to produce fire safety compliance certificates, which nobody managed to produce, the official revealed.

Bar owners allege that the police are not interested in issuing licences and have rejected applications without reason. They want a court-appointed body to inspect their premises and file a compliance report before the court in order to ensure transparency.

Earlier, the audit process ran into controversy after four police officers had been found to have prepared false compliance reports though the applicant bars had not adhered to the conditions. Subsequently, these policemen — three inspectors and one assistant police inspector — were suspended by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.

The Maharashtra government and the dance bar and hotels owners’ association have been locked in a court battle for more than a decade now, ever since the state first banned dance bars in 2005. While issuing the ban for the first time, the state had said that it was prompted by the need to prevent immoral activities, trafficking of women and to ensure the safety of women in general. The ban raised a lot of concerns and controversies, from the state’s right to police the moral lives of citizens to the impact it would have on the livelihood of bar dancers.

First Published: Oct 25, 2017 12:32 IST

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