Experts advise state govt caution on dance bars

Mahesh Jethmalani says review petition is the only wise option it has

Written by Express News Service | Mumbai | Published: July 23, 2013 1:13 am

Still licking its wounds after the Supreme Court ordered reopening of dance bars in Maharashtra,the state government has now knocked at the Attorney General of India’s doors for advice. With a strong intent to continue with the ban,Home Minister R R Patil said Monday he was weighing options and seeking help in New Delhi. Legal experts,however,feel the government needs to be careful about the legal route it chooses.

Patil said the government was deliberating over three options — filing a review petition in the Supreme Court,exercising executive authority to counter the legal challenge in the Supreme Court and to enact a new law — to ensure the city’s dance bars,forced shut after the government notified the Bombay Police (Amendment) (BPA) Act in 2005,do not pull up their shutters just yet.

Senior counsel Mahesh Jethmalani feels a review petition is the only “wise option” available. “The state has the right to file a review petition. Although the state merely on the basis of its personal bias went ahead showing little regard for the constitutional right of an individual and banned dance bars,if it still insists on challenging the ruling,it may file a review petition,” he said.

Requesting anonymity,a senior lawyer familiar with the government’s line of thinking said even if it was perceived as a delaying tactic,a review petition in the Supreme Court would not buy the government much time as it would not take more than two to three months to be decided. However,the government also has the option of filing a curative petition in the Supreme Court. A curative petition can be filed on recommendation of a senior counsel in the apex court when a decision needs a serious reconsideration.

The senior lawyer said the government could retain the Bombay Police (Amendment) Act,2005,if the infirmity in the law was removed. However,in this case,it would not be possible as the court has held section 33A of the BPA Act violative of the right to one’s livelihood,the counsel said. Section 33A bans any form of dance at an establishment that serves liquour.

Senior counsel Rajni Iyer said the ban on dance bars has been held bad in law by the Supreme Court. But for bars to be up and running,she said,there needs to be a place,there need to be licences and an establishment. She said it is the government that has the right to grant these licences and permissions.

“There are ever so many licenses required. The government can increase the permissions required to run dance bars and take forever to grant them,” Iyer said. “The government’s intention is not clear. Whether it is to cause delay,to frame their policy or whether it is ego,is difficult to say.”

Senior lawyers said overriding the Supreme Court ruling is not an option that the government has. “That only shows the scant respect the government has for the judiciary. It is an atrocious thought to override the order,” Jethmalani said.

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