Picture used for representational purpose. (Courtesy: Gettyimages)
If you are planning to walk into a disco in Chandigarh wearing a short skirt, think again. The Chandigarh administration has made provisions to ban short skirts in discos with an aim to “control places of public amusement”.
In its policy “Controlling of Places of Public Amusement, 2016,” which many have termed absurd and ridiculous, the administration has made all provisions for throttling city’s nightlife in the name of regulation, citing indecency and sedition as top reasons. Bureaucrats seem to find city bars and discotheques a breeding ground for anti-national elements too.
The policy that came into effect on April 1 has not only curtailed the bar timings by two hours from 2am to 12 midnight, it also gives unprecedented powers to the babus over bar owners and makes running of discotheques an uphill task.
According to the policy, a nodal committee with deputy commissioner as chairman and municipal corporation (MC) commissioner, Chandigarh police SSP, director, health services and excise and taxation commissioner as members, have the power to refuse renewal of permission for business operation.
Referring to the running of bars and discotheques, the policy states the permission can be denied by the committee in case of “exhibition or advertisement of scantily dressed women” and “indecency” or if it is “seditious and likely to excite political discontent.”
The policy draft, however, does not define “scantily dressed women” or “indecency” and also doesn’t elaborate on sedition.
“It’s moral policing. How do you define a scantily dressed woman or being indecent? It is all subjective. What you may find indecent, I may find innocent. The administration should not reject permissions on such parameters at least,” said Manish Goyal, a city-based restaurateur.
Goyal added that it was a vague and harsh policy and would kill the nightlife of Chandigarh and ruin businesses. While terming the policy as blatantly unconstitutional, noted lawyer Anupam Gupta, who studied the draft of the policy, said the entire policy was flawed. “The entire notification is completely without any authority of law and the onus would be on UT to show under which law or which legal power they have passed this notification,” he said.
According to senior advocate Ranjan Lakhanpal, the administration can’t pass such a policy in the name of regulating nightlife. “The policy is completely incorrect. It’s moral policing and in violation of fundamental rights of citizens. The UT administration has not used the word ‘indecency’ and ‘sedition’ in relevant manner and is behaving like a dictator.”
City hoteliers and restaurant owners have also questioned the provision of sedition, saying till date not even a single instance of such a nature has been heard from any bar or restaurant of the city.
Vipul Dua, president of Joint Forum of Young Entrepreneurs and owner of a bar in Sector 35, said, “I have been in this business for last 10 years and never heard a single instance related to sedition from any of the city bars or restaurants. I am amazed that UT could make such a provision in the policy as ground for shutting down business.”
The Punjab and Haryana high court had ordered the UT administration to frame a policy for regulating the operations of city bars and restaurants after a number of violent incidents had taken place outside discotheques.
While the UT home secretary did not respond to repeated phone calls and the phone of deputy commissioner remained switched off throughout Tuesday, joint home secretary Karnail Singh, when contacted, said the policy was as per the law. “We have framed this policy following directions from the Punjab and Haryana high court. The policy is aimed at regulating the nightlife and ensuring law and order,” he said.
As per the policy, the permission to discos can be revoked if it is considered
(a) To be indecent or of a scurrilous character;
(b) To be seditious or likely to excite political discontent (c) Any exhibition or advertisement of scantily dressed women;
(d) To contain offensive reference to personalities;
(e) To promote hostile feelings between different classes;
(f) To be calculated to cause a breach of peace.