“Dance and liquor can co-exist.”, Supreme Court removes ban on dance bars

19-Jan-2019

“Dance and liquor can co-exist.”, Supreme Court removes ban on dance bars

In the latest verdict, it was held by the Supreme Court, that there cannot be a total prohibition of dance bars in Maharashtra. The Bench has also relaxed the stringent conditions imposed by the Government for getting a license for dance bars. 

The performers will be allowed on the premises of the bar and discotheques but showering of the money has been disallowed by SC. The performers can be tipped by customers though.

The SC has paved the way for the opening of dance bars in Mumbai and other cities in Maharashtra, and relaxed stringent conditions imposed by the Maharashtra government for getting licenses for dance bar. 

“Dance and liquor can coexist and there is no need to segregate the area where liquor is served to patrons from the dancing area,” it said. 

The petitioners argued that the Maharashtra Prohibition of Obscene Dances in Hotels, Restaurants and Bar Rooms and Protection of Dignity of Women (working therein) Act, 2016 is arbitrary and violative of their right to earn a livelihood through legitimate means.

Upholding the Bombay High Court's verdict, the Supreme Court ruled that the ban was unconstitutional and decided to hear the matter later. The Supreme Court set aside certain provisions of a law imposing restrictions on the licensing and functioning of dance bars in Maharashtra. 

On August 15, 2005, the Maharashtra government had banned all dance bars in Mumbai to “prevent immoral activities, trafficking of women and to ensure the safety of women in general”. As many as 700 dance bars across Mumbai and Maharashtra were shut down. The ban also pushed nearly 70,000 bar girls out of jobs, reportedly forcing many into prostitution.

The state government’s ban was challenged in the Bombay High Court in 2006 on grounds that it was in violation of Articles 14 and 19 of the Constitution, which guarantee the right to equality and the right to practice any profession respectively. The court ruled that the ban infringed both of these rights and overturned it.

The apex court bench headed by Justice AK Sikri, however, laid down some riders: 

-The court said a rule that dance bars should be 1 km from religious places and educational institutes are "no reasonable " in Mumbai.

-Performers at dance bars can be paid tips but they cannot be showered with cash, the top court said.

-The Supreme Court also backed fixing the time and asking dance bars in the state to operate from 6 pm to 11.30 pm.

-The rule requiring a partition between barrooms and the dance floor was also canceled by the court.

-Compulsory installation of CCTV cameras was also struck down by the court that said the rule violates privacy. 

-The Supreme Court struck down a provision that the owner of the dance bar should have a "good character" and no "criminal antecedents". "There is no precise definition of what amounts to good character and criminal antecedents," the court.

-Dance bar owners had objected to the restriction of maintaining a 1-km distance from any religious or educational structure claiming it was not possible in big cities. They had told the court that the state government adopted an attitude that it will not permit dance bars irrespective of court orders. 

-The Dance Bar Regulation Bill unanimously passed by the state assembly in 2016, banned serving liquor in performance areas and mandated that the premises must shut by 11:30 pm. It also imposed heavy penalties on dance bar owners and customers for not following these rules.

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