The Maharashtra assembly on Friday passed a law to ban dance bars across the state.
The Congress-NCP-led government got approved the amendment in Maharashtra Police Act which banned performance of bar dancers in all hotels, bars and restaurants.
While the assembly was passing the bill, RR Patil, the home minister stated that the government has sought the opinion of the advocate general and some senior lawyers in Delhi before coming up with the amendment.
“Every one has supported the bill. There are no deviations from the state government stand to ban them completely,” Patil said.
“This decision has been made to avoid the discrimination between the ordinary dance bars and dance bars in three, five stars hotels which Supreme Court had objected to,” said a senior Congress minister.
The law will effect a total ban on dance bars and dance performances at five star hotels. However, it does not extend to family parties in pubs and discotheques, and orchestras. In 2005, the Maharashtra government had amended the Police Act, prohibiting dance performances in permit rooms, beer bars and eating houses across the state in a bid to ban dance bars.
According to the bill, all the existing dance bar licences now stands cancelled and the deposits will be returned to the hotliers upon application within 30 days. A punishment of minimum three years and fine of minimum Rs 1 lakh has been approved for those who will breach the law.
The government has plugged one loophole, but still the amended law might not stand if challenged legally, sources said. The discrimination among patrons was one of the grounds the Supreme Court had raised while striking down the ban. A more crucial point the court had raised was the right of artistes to perform and women’s right to earn a livelihood.
Last year, a bench of the then Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice S S Nijjar said the state’s decision to amend the Bombay Police Act and impose a ban on dancing in bars by girls in the name of ensuring safety of women and curbing obscenity was an overreaction. “It reflected lack of thinking to search for viable alternatives and resulted in largescale joblessness among women,” the bench had said.
In 2005, while banning dance bars, the government had branded the bars as dens of iniquity and fronts for prostitution. It claimed they corrupted the young and were meeting places for criminals. Bar owners, activists and NGOs contested the ban, saying the establishments only staged dance shows. The dancers’ labour union feared many of its members would be forced into prostitution.
In 2006, the Bombay high court ruled that the ban violated the constitutional right to earn a living and was against public interest.
There were around 400 dance bars in Mumbai before the ban. They employed over 65,000 women and 40,000 men, with the dancers earning up to Rs 25,000 per month. Post-ban, the loss to government and industry was pegged at over Rs 3,000 crore.
On July 16, 2013, the Supreme Court upheld Bombay HC decision to junk the ban on dance bars in the state.
What the approved bill says
The amended Maharashtra Police Act mentions ban on all dance performances in bars and restaurants across all types of hospitality industry.
Any breach of this code would invite the action of minimum three months to maximum five years of jail and minimum one lakh to five lakh fine besides cancellation of the hotel permit.
Now all the dance bar licenses stand cancelled and will be withdrawn within 30 days.
Earlier, such ban was implemented in all hotels, bars and restaurants below three star category. Now even the starred hotels — from three to five — will not able to allow bar dancers to perform in their establishments.