To ban dancebars, Maharashtra uses — and abuses Supreme Court ruling

Changes law but ignores SC observations on women’s rights, security

Police raid a dance bar in Mumbai. The SC had called for safe workplaces . Police raid a dance bar in Mumbai. The SC had called for safe workplaces .
Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi | Published on:June 14, 2014 3:39 am

The Maharashtra Government cites the Supreme Court to justify its proposal for a blanket ban on dance bars. What it does not say is how it’s twisting the SC ruling and ignoring the key points the court made on women’s rights and their security.

Ostensibly to nullify the SC ruling that had paved the way for dance bar owners lift their shutters once again, the Maharashtra government has cleared an amendment to plug the legal loophole, which led the court quash the ban. 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. There is no material placed on record by the State to show that it was not possible to deal with the situation within the framework of the existing laws except for the unfounded conclusions..,” it said.

The SC pointed out there were specific legal provisions also under the Amusement Rules, 1960, that prescribed conditions for holding performances, besides various provisions under …continued »

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