On Thursday Supreme Court of India paved the way for dance bars to reopen in Maharashtra after 14 years, saying there can be “regulations” but not “total prohibition” and frowning on the state government’s “moralistic overtones” and attempt at “social control” Often women in such professions are made to work in abusive and unsafe environment.This move is expected to have a positive impact in the working condition of bar dancers. The first dance bar in Maharashtra started in early 1980s in Raigad district, which is around 75 kilometers from Mumbai .It was in year 2015 that R.R. Patil banned them prompting legal challenges for workers in the profession. In 2016 Devendra Fadnavis government enacted the Obscene Dance Act in 2016 which dancers and bar owners alleged made them impossible to operate.
The recent ruling relaxes the rules and makes following changes
Coins: The court upheld the ban on “throwing or showering coins, currency notes, etc” but quashed the prohibition on tipping.
Liquor: The court saw “no reason why liquor cannot be served at such places” and suggested “the State is more influenced by moralistic overtones under wrong presumption that persons after consuming alcohol would misbehave with the dancers”.
“If this is so, such a presumption would be equally applicable to bar rooms where alcohol is served by women waitresses.”
Partition: The bench quashed the rule that the dance stage in the bar room must be segregated with a non-transparent partition from the main hotel or restaurant.
Ikm radius: The court said the rule stipulating a dance bar is at least 1km away from any educational or religious institution ignored the ground realities, especially in Mumbai, where it would be difficult to find any such place.
“This, therefore, amounts to fulfilling an impossible condition,” it said, quashing it as “arbitrary and unreasonable”. It said a more realistic distance could later be worked out.
Character certificate: The court struck down Rule 3(3)(i) which mandated that a person could get a dance bar licence only if he had a “good character” and “antecedents” and had no history of “criminal record” in the preceding 10 years.
The court said the expressions “good character” and “antecedents” were “capable of any interpretation” and that the matter was best “left to the wisdom of the licensing authority”.
It said the act did not spell out whether it was using “criminal record” to describe “conviction” or “mere lodging of FIR”. It, however, allowed the “rule-making authority” to later draft a “suitable provision of precise nature”.
Service conditions: The court accepted that the dancers should be hired on a written contract and their pay deposited in their bank accounts. But it rejected the requirement for a monthly salary, saying this would restrict the women’s option of performing at more than one bar.
CCTV cameras: The court quashed the mandatory stipulation for CCTV cameras at all dance bar rooms on the ground of “invasion of privacy”.
Size, timings: The court upheld the minimum floor area of 10ftx12ft prescribed by the 2016 act for a dance bar, and the 6pm-11.30pm window for the dance performances.