Paving the way for dance bars in Maharashtra to reopen, the Supreme Court on Thursday stayed a 2014 amendment of Maharashtra Police Act banning dance performances in various places including bars in the state.
A bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Prafulla C Pant said that state brought act which was very much similar to previous law which was declared unconstitutional by the apex court.
The SC, however, gave power to licensing authorities to regulate indecent dance performances.
The apex court also said that the state must ensure that dignity of woman artist is protected.
The apex court had in 2009 strike down similar law saying that banning dance performances was unconstitutional.
Dance bars have been a contentious issue in the state, where the government branded them as fronts for prostitution.
Reacting to the apex court’s decision Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said:
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In 2005, the police cracked down on dance performances in bars. Elite establishments, including five star hotels, were exempted.
After the top court ruled that dance bars would be allowed to operate in 2013, the Maharashtra assembly passed a law in June 2014 banning dance bars. All political parties were on the same page on the issue and the law was passed unanimously without a debate.
But restaurant owners had challenged the law, arguing that the state had brought a new law to ban bars when the court, the year before, had quashed a law which banned dance performances.
The court agreed that although it had set aside a similar provision, the law had been brought in a new manner. The court will hear the case again on November 5.
There were around 700 establishments across Maharashtra, which employed more than 75,000 women who performed Bollywood-style dance routines. Apart from salaries, they received cash tips from the people in the bar.
The dancers’ union had opposed the ban, saying many of its members would be forced into prostitution if the state refused to allow dance performances.