The Maharashtra government has defended in the Supreme Court its new law on dance bars, saying that the state “desires to regulate the dance performance in bar so as to protect the dignity of women performing dance in the bar rooms”. Submitting its affidavit on Friday, the state government said that the Maharashtra Prohibition of Obscene Dance in Hotels, Restaurants and Bar Rooms and Protection of Dignity of Women (working therein) Act, 2016 did not need to define an “obscene” performance since “an ordinary prudent man can certainly tell that which dance is designed only to arouse the prurient interest of the audience”.
The affidavit, filed through the state’s counsel Nishant R Katneshwarkar, also gave reasons why the new law stipulates that a bar room where dance performances would take place should not remain open after 11.30 pm. “In case the women who perform dance are required to stay back for long hours at night, there may be some untoward incidents which may result in increase in sexual and other offences related to women,” it said.
About including the condition that the place shall be at least one kilometre away from educational and religious institutions, Maharashtra said that the objection that no such place could be found in a city like Mumbai was “absurd”.
It maintained that showering of money on dancers could not be allowed because it was not a tip. “Performance of a dance is neither a table service nor a service. Therefore, no question of giving of tip for performance of a dance arises,” said the affidavit.
“Maharashtra is not desirous of banning the dance performance in hotels, restaurants and bar rooms. But the State of Maharashtra desires to regulate the dance performance in bar so as to protect the dignity of women performing dance in the bar rooms,” it said, adding that there was no intention to circumvent the 2013 judgment delivered by the apex court wherein another law by the state to prohibit dance bars was quashed.
The government was responding to a notice issued by a bench led by Justice Dipak Misra on the constitutional validity of the 2016 Act. The petition was filed by the Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association and others, which claimed that the new law is simply a revised version of the old law and seeks to bypass the 2013 judgment of the top court.