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HC sees Nazi parallel in state’s waitress rules

The Bombay High Court on Tuesday pulled up the state government over the bar on waitresses working at bars and restaurants at night,asking how else women are supposed to exercise their right to livelihood,and over the way waitresses are treated at bars.

The Bombay High Court on Tuesday pulled up the state government over the bar on waitresses working at bars and restaurants at night,asking how else women are supposed to exercise their right to livelihood,and over the way waitresses are treated at bars.

The court was shocked to hear that waitresses are required to carry a form (nokarnama) with their name and details all the time. “Where are we living? In Nazi Germany?” asked Justice F I Rebello,part of a division Bench with Justice Amjed Sayed.

The counsel for the government,however,clarified that both men and women in such establishments are required to carry the form.

The court was hearing a petition by Womanist Organisation of India and Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association (AHAR),challenging the 9 30 pm deadline for waitresses under the Bombay Shops and Establishments Act.

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The state government’s contention was that women are exploited in bars. “You mean to say men who don’t drink don’t exploit?” the Bench said. “Do you think women are not exploited at other places? If they are working in a house,washing your clothes… are they not exploited?” Justice Rebello asked.

“If you think drinking is bad then close everything down,” the Bench said. “Stop those subsidies you gave recently and convert all potable alcohol into industrial alcohol,” it said,referring to the government’s recent decision to grant subsidies for foodgrain-based liquor.

“Sometimes we wonder why women are treated like some commodity. What kind of mentality is this?” the judges said.

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The state contended that these women are uneducated and the bars are like pick-up joints.

“Then close everything down,” the court said.

Advocate Ashutosh Kumbhakoni,appearing for the petitioners,stated that the rule in the Bombay Shops and Establishments Act is vague as some clauses are not defined properly. The act says “such women” where “such” is not defined,Kumbhakoni said.

Kumbhakoni also pointed out that in a working day,if the cutoff time is 9. 30 pm,as per the rule,then women can start working after midnight when a new day begins since the bars have a licence to remain open till 1.30 am.

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Bar owners alleged that the police harass them even though they have licences to operate till 1.30 am.

The petitions say that cops send waitresses out of restaurants at 9.30 pm. They say that this has been happening in spite of an undertaking by the police in 2008 that they would not take any action till the rules are amended.

First published on: 26-03-2010 at 12:16:08 am
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