Supreme Court has upheld Maharastra government’s Act regulating the working of dance bars or discotheques in the state but has diluted many sections it deemed were against privacy and fundamental rights of citizens. SC observed that no license has been granted to dance bar owners since 2005, due to ‘unreasonable’ norms laid by Maharastra government and said that there be should be regulations but not a total prohibition. SC was hearing pleas filed by various restaurants and hotels of the state, including that of Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association.
According to reports, SC has upheld various sections of the Maharashtra Prohibition of Obscene Dance in Hotels, Restaurants and Bar Rooms and Protection of Dignity of Women (Working therein) Act, 2016, which currently regulates dance bars and protects rights of its workers, in Mumbai and other cities. SC has upheld the definition of the word ‘obscene’ in Section 2 of the Act and has also upheld the section which requires bars only to operate between 6 pm to 11:30 pm. In addition to this, the section which proscribes and punishes bars for allowing obscene dance or exploitation of any working woman for any immoral purpose has also been upheld.
However, SC has squashed the section which mandated installation of CCTV in the bar, citing the violation of privacy of citizens. It also has struck down a section, which prohibited bars from operating in an area within 1 km radius of religious and educational institutions. It has also allowed visitors to give tips to dancers, however, it has upheld the section of Act which prohibits showering money on dancers. SC has ruled that there is no need for monthly salaries to dancers working in the bar. It has also ruled that there is no need for non-transparent barriers between dance floors and bars where alcohol is served.
Dance Bars were banned in the state in October 2005, which was struck down by Bombay High Court the following year. The decision of Court was reserved by the Supreme Court in 2013, following which ordinance was brought by the government, which was again deemed invalid by the court. Maharastra Government then had brought the 2016 Act, regulating operation of the bars.