Minutes after Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis tweeted that the government still favours the ban (on dance bars), Mumbai Police revealed its stand by refusing to meet bar owners who visited the headquarters to avail licences.
The optimism shown by former bar dancers and owners following the Supreme Court order could be a tad too early, as senior officials claimed that it “will be a while” before they start processing the licence papers.
“We have to read the order, and understand our role and what is expected of us,” said a senior police official whose office will be involved once the order reaches headquarters.
Police have also decided to first frame a set of guidelines on how to ensure the safety of women in dance bars, and send it to the home department for approval before allowing licenses to be processed.
The SC bench, while staying the ban, had added that Maharashtra police will ensure that dignity of women is not affected by the dance performances and the licensing authority will also regulate indecent dance performances. Police are now looking to analyse the exact meaning of these words.
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When asked about the steps Mumbai police will be taking in the wake of the Supreme Court order, spokesperson DCP Dhananjay Kulkarni said, “We have not yet received the order copy. We will have a detailed study of the order copy and decide on the steps depending on that.”
“Before we start accepting applications for dance bar licences, we will have to decide if the clauses, which were in place during 2005 before the dance bars were banned, have to be amended or added. Though broadly the directions will come from the government, we will be providing a list of suggestions to the state since maintaining law and order is eventually our responsibility. This is especially because in this case, the court has emphasised on the role of police in ensuring that dance bars are regulated well and no indecent activity takes place there. It may take some time before we have some clarity on the procedure and start accepting applications,” Kulkarni said.
Sources said that in case there are procedural delays, bar owners always have recourse to the Apex court. Another senior IPS officer was skeptical about the role police has played so far in controlling indecent activities in the bars.
“We cannot have our men at bars 24X7. So many times it has happened that whenever we would reach a bar, dancers involved in indecent activities would pretend to be waitresses. Our men already face so much flak for moral policing.
In this case, indecency is such an open-ended term. So we would rather be cautious,” the officer said.
A city zonal deputy commissioner said, “Prior to 2005, we would have a constable standing guard at the bars. However, the constables often started colluding with bar owners.”
An Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association (AHAR) member who had come to the DCP (HQ-1) in connection with bar license said, “We had taken all security measures like installing CCTVs. This time too, we will follow whatever clauses police comes up with. We are hoping that once the SC order copy is available in the next few days, police will start accepting applications.”
“Nearly 50 per cent of the people who owned dance bars converted them into hotels soon after the state banned dance bars. Several employees committed suicide as their means of livelihood was snatched away. So many people came on the roads in a matter of days,” the AHAR member added. While he waited for hours to meet the police, he did not get an appointment.