In an interim relief to Maharashtra, Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to stay the operation of a new law meant to regulate the licensing and functioning of dance bars across the state, though it questioned some of its provisions. The apex court, however, allowed three dance bars which were granted licences by the state administration to continue to function under the old rules and directions issued by it from time to time.
A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and C Nagappan, during the brief hearing, questioned certain new provisions of the Maharashtra Prohibition of Obscene Dance in Hotels, Restaurants and Bar Rooms and Protection of Dignity of Women (Working therein) Act, 2016.
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“How can there be CCTV cameras in the performance areas? Is it not the infringment of right to privacy? We have no objection to installation of CCTV cameras at the entrance of dance bars,” the bench said.
Senior advocate Shekhar Naphade, appearing for Maharashtra, said the police cannot be stripped of its investigating right by not allowing CCTVs in the performance areas of dance bars.
“These are security arrangements and CCTV footage is a crucial evidence. Tomorrow, if anything happens in the dance bars, this CCTV footage will help in investigation. To ensure that regulations are complied with by the dance bars, we need the CCTVs in performance areas,” Naphade said.
Senior advocate Jayant Bhushan appearing for Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association (IHRA)said the installation of CCTV in performance areas would have a “chilling effect” and breach the right to privacy as people would refrain from coming to the dance bars.
The bench also prima facie agreed to the contention of Bhushan that the regulation that no liquor can be served in the bar where dance is permitted was absurd and irrational.
“This will be a situation like juice bars. They want no alcohol beverages to be served in a bar. What sort of dance bar it will be where no liquor is served? It will be like juice bars where dance is separated from the bar,” Bhushan contended.
One of the other regulation which was strongly contested by IHRA pertained to the mandatory condition that dancers are to be employed by the bar owners.