Fadnavis says will abide

The Supreme Court had in 2013 upheld the right of women bar dancers to follow their profession and dismissed the government’s appeal to ban them.

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi | Updated: October 15, 2015 2:49 pm

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The state government had first imposed a ban on dance bars in 2005. Express PhotoThe Supreme Court on Thursday stayed a state law banning dance bars in Maharashtra, observing the new law is very similar to the one the court had struck down in 2013.

A bench led by Justice Dipak Misra, however, added that the Maharashtra police will ensure that dignity of women was not affected by the dance performances and that the licensing authority will also regulate indecent dance performances.

The order has been passed by the court as it heard a contempt plea against a 2014-amenndment to the Bombay Police Act and the refusal of the licensing authority to let dance bars re-open even after the previous law was held bad by the court. The bench will hear the case in detail on November 6.

Last year, ostensibly to nullify the SC ruling that had paved the way for dance bar owners lift their shutters once again, the Congress-leled Maharashtra government had cleared an amendment to plug the legal loophole, which had led the court quash the ban in 2013. The state cabinet decided to extend the ban to high-end hotels and private clubs too and the new law will hence affect a total ban on dance bars and dance performances. –

In the process, however, the state government has clearly ignored the larger point made by the apex court in its 133-page July 2013 judgement.

While the state government has apparently chosen to drop a provision from the Bombay Police Act, 1951, that allowed dance performances in “exempted” establishments like three-star and five-star hotels but banned it elsewhere, it has failed to address the real issue flagged by the SC.

“A large number of imaginative alternative steps could be taken instead of completely prohibiting dancing if the real concern of the State is the safety of women,” the court had said in its order, while emphasising that the state had failed in establishing that such restrictions would be reasonable or be in the interest of general public.

The SC had added: “It would be more appropriate to bring about measures which should ensure the safety and improve the working conditions of the persons working as bar girls.”

The court had then unequivocally told the Maharashtra government: “In our opinion, in the present case, the restrictions in the nature of prohibition cannot be said to be reasonable, inasmuch as there could be several lesser alternatives available which would have been adequate to ensure safety of women than to completely prohibit dance.”

Wondering why there was a need to have the contentious provisions in the Police Act, the SC had asserted that there were “already sufficient rules and regulations and legislation in place which, if efficiently applied, would control if not eradicate all the dangers to the society,” and “protect the dignity of women.”

“The Rules under the Bombay Police Act have been framed in the interest of public safety and social welfare and to safeguard the dignity of women as well as prevent exploitation of women.

Varsha Kale, president of the Womanist Party of India, who has been fighting for the rights of bar dancers, said, “This should have happened long ago. The bar dancers have not been given any avenues of employment. For the past nine years, they have been traumatised. Some lost their lives, some lost their homes. Despite all this, we have been working peacefully. Give us a valid reason of not issuing the licences.”

Women rights activist and lawyer Flavia Agnes, who has also been working for the rights of the bar dancers, welcomed the step. “It is good to see that the Supreme Court is taking action in favour of these girls.” However, both Kale and Agnes said they were wary that the the matter could fizzle out before the Vidhan Sabha elections. – See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/dance-bar-girls-owners-welcome-sc-move/#sthash.xvdNhHtl.dpuf

  • See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/dance-bars-to-reopen-in-maharashtra-as-supreme-court-puts-ban-on-hold/#sthash.oiKNuY50.dpuf