The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued a notice to Maharashtra government over a new law for dance bar licenses. The BJP-led state government has been asked to reply within 6 weeks.
A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and C Nagappan issued notice to the state government on a batch of petitions including one filed by Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association challenging the constitutional validity of certain provisions of the Maharashtra Prohibition of Obscene Dance in Hotels, Restaurants and Bar Rooms and Protection of Dignity of Women (Working therein) Act, 2016.
The apex court had in May directed the state government to grant licenses to eight dance bars within two days and asked them to give an undertaking that they would not engage employees with criminal antecedents near the dance area.
The Dance Bar Regulation Bill, that was unanimously passed by the assembly on April 13, among other things, prohibits serving liquor in performance areas and mandates that the premises must shut by 11.30 pm.
It also imposes heavy penalties on dance bar owners and customers for not following these rules.
The apex court had on March 2 rejected certain suggestions like providing live CCTV footage to police of performances in the dance bars and asked the state government to grant licences to owners within 10 days after they comply with the modified guidelines.
Showering monies on dancers against dignity of women, notes SC
Meanwhile, one provision of a the act to regulate obscene dance performances and prohibiting showering of money at dancers found favour with the Supreme Court, which said the law respected "the dignity of woman, decency and culture".
Refusing to accept showering of currency notes on women dancers as tip, the bench said, "this provision shows respect for women. This dignifies decency and culture".
The bench distinguished between throwing money in cinema halls with showering of notes on women dancers at the bars. "This is not the silver screen where you throw money. They are performers and there is certain dignity attached to them."
Senior advocate Jayant Bhushan appearing for IHRA said the Act allows giving financial reward to singers but strangely prohibited the same for dancers.
"Handing over currency to dancers for their performances is just like giving a tip. This is allowed for singers and prohibited for the dancers," Bhushan argued.
The bench rejected the vehement contention of senior advocate Shekhar Naphade, representing Maharashtra, that the plea should not be entertained by the apex court and sent to the Bombay high court for adjudication.
During the brief hearing, the counsel for various hotels and dance bars objected to several provisions of the new law, including installation of CCTV cameras near performance areas.
Bhushan termed as unconstitutional the provision which requires that no drinks would be served at a place where dancers would be performing in the bar.
He also objected to a clause where bars are required to employ the dancers, saying a performer cannot be restrained from choosing places where she can perform.
"Why should a woman be forced to be employed. They are professionals. They are performers and can give their performances at any place of their choice," Bhushan said.