Activists welcome SC verdict on dance bars; Maha govt cautious
    Mumbai, Jan 17 (PTI) Social activists welcomed the
Supreme Court's verdict which paves the way for reopening of
dance bars in Maharashtra, while the state government said it
will look out for 'untoward activities' under the garb of
dance bars.
    Stating that there can be "regulations" but not "total
prohibition", the SC Thursday set aside some provisions of a
2016 law imposing restrictions on licensing and functioning of
dance bars.
    The Bharatiya Bar Girls' union president Varsha Kale,
who has been fighting for the cause of bar dancers, termed the
apex court ruling as a great "victory".
    Kale said over 75,000 women were employed in dance
bars when the state government decided to shut them down in
2005 for allegedly promoting obscenity.
    While over 40,000 women left the profession and took
up other jobs for livelihood, around 35,000 were still working
as waiters and singers in various hotels, she claimed.
    Bureaucrat-turned-activist Abha Singh hailed the apex
court's order as "progressive", and said the state government
can regulate dance bars but cannot prohibit them.
    Manjit Singh Sethi, who spearheaded the fight to
reopen dance bars and had moved the Bombay High Court earlier,
also welcomed the decision.
    Several bar dancers were forced to join flesh trade
after the state government snatched their means of livelihood,
said Sethi, former president of the Dance Bar Owners'
    BJP leader Prem Shukla said the state government will
consult legal experts on the SC's order. The then Congress-NCP
government took banned dance bars to safeguard social fabric,
he said.
    The SC has quashed some provisions of the Maharashtra
Prohibition of Obscene Dance in Hotels, Restaurants and Bar
Rooms and Protection of Dignity of Women (Working therein)
Act, 2016, like the mandatory installations of CCTV cameras in
the dance bars, saying they violated privacy.
    The apex court permitted the dance bars to be located
a kilometre away from religious places and educational
institutions. It allowed tips to performers but disallowed
showering of currency on them.
    The government will check any "untoward activity"
taking place under the garb of dance bars, state home minister
Ranjit Patil.
    "We are committed to abide by the court's verdict
and respect it. Within the ambit of the decision, we will
maintain vigilance so that no untoward activities happen under
the garb of dance bars," Patil said.
    The Supreme Court verdict evoked a mixed reaction from
the legal fraternity with some hailing it and others calling
it a setback for the state government.
    A section of lawyers welcomed the judgement and said
the SC has drawn a balance between the rights of citizens and
duty of the state to govern, while the others said the
government's law imposing restrictions on the licencing and
functioning of dance bars should have been upheld in totality.
    Senior lawyers opined the apex court has taken a
balanced approach towards the issue and ensured the rights of
both the government and citizens are not curtailed.
    The Congress and NCP attributed the SC order to the
Devendra Fadnavis-led government's "nexus" with bar owners.
    Terming the decision as unfortunate, the parties
said the government deliberately presented a pusillanimous
position on the issue before the court.
    The NCP said it would ensure the ban on dance bars
returns after it regains power in the state, while the
Congress asked the ruling BJP to explain how much election
funds it received in this matter.
    The ban on dance bars in Maharashtra came into effect
in 2005. Then Deputy Chief Minister R R Patil of NCP had
initiated the move to ban dance bars. A bill was introduced in
the state legislature and was passed unanimously by both the
    The Maharashtra Police Act was amended by amending
section 33(A)(1), to which the SC had termed claiming it to be
against the fundamental rights of the girls working in them
    The SC struck the amendment down, in October 2015 and
then in March 2016 and directed the government to allow the
bars to reopen by containing obscenity.
    About the objectives and reasons for introducing the
bill, Patil, who then held the Home portfolio, had said, "The
eating houses or permit rooms or beer bars to which licenses
to hold dance performances have been granted, were permitting
performances of dances in an indecent, obscene or vulgar
    Patil, who died in 2015, had said the government felt
that such performance in an indecent manner is derogatory to
the dignity of women and harmful for public morality. PTI APM