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Home > News > PTI

Dance bars: Ban on licence renewal to continue

May 10, 2006 18:08 IST

Providing no immediate reprieve for dance bar owners in Maharashtra, the Supreme Court on Wednesday decided to continue with the ban on the renewal of licences.

While admitting Maharashtra government's appeal against the Bombay high court verdict striking down the legislation banning dance performances in licensed eating houses, permit rooms and bars across the state, the court said the stay granted by the high court for renewal of licenses for eight weeks will continue till further orders.

After hour-long arguments by top advocates, pressed into service by both the Maharashtra government and the owners of dance bars and bar girls, a Bench comprising Justice B N Agrawal and Justice P P Naolekar decided to hear the matter in July after the summer vacation.

The high court on April 12 had quashed an amendment to the Bombay Police Act that banned dance bars stating that it was unconstitutional as it discriminated between dance performances in beer-bars and ordinary eateries -- which was banned -- and those in theatres, auditoriums and three star and above hotels -- which were exempted.

Senior advocates Fali Nariman and Harish Salve, appearing for the state government, pressed for stay of the high court verdict saying the legislation banning dance performances in beer bars, etc was not an overnight decision.

Salve said the ban on dance bars was justified as prostitution rackets were being run from there as well as other law and order problems being created.

However, senior advocates Soli Sorabjee, Mukul Rohatgi, Rajiv Dhavan and Indira Jaising opposed the state's appeal saying it cannot deny the dance girls from earning their livelihood by banning their performance.

Sorabjee and Rohatgi, appearing for the Hotel and Restaurant Association and dance bar owners respectively, contended that once the legislation was prima facie held as unconstitutional by the high court, the state government should not deprive dance bar owners and bar girls of their fundamental rights.

Rohatgi said sinceAugust 2005 when the ban was imposed, 70,000 women have been left unemployed and the stay of the high court verdict will deprive them their livelihood.

When Nariman said there was exploitation of women in the dance bars, Rohatgi shot back saying, "We know where they (women) are going after the ban where there will be more exploitation. You (state) are depriving them to live with dignity," he said.

At this stage, the bench said while the matter was pending before the high court, the news reports were also telecast through the television.

"You (dance bars) cannot be permitted to do indecent performances. Who will look after this," the bench observed.

Jaising, appearing for seven women organisations, cited some instances of suicide committed by the dance girls after the ban and said the state has powers to deal with indecency, but cannot deprive the girls from earning a decent living.

Contending that irreparable loss and damage had accrued to the dance girls, Dhavan soughtthe licensing procedure should go on as dance bars had been operating in Mumbai and elsewhere in the state for the last 40 years.

He contended that there was no evidence of trafficking from the dance bars.

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