Supreme Court relaxes stringent restrictions on dance bars

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The Supreme Court has relaxed stringent restrictions that were imposed on dance bars in Maharashtra. The restrictions meant that no new licenses were granted to dance bars in Maharashtra since 2005. The Supreme Court ruling was made on a batch of pleas by restaurant and hotel owners challenging the Maharashtra government’s law, called the Maharashtra Prohibition of Obscene Dance in Hotels, Restaurants and Bar Rooms and Protection of Dignity of Women Act, 2016. The law prohibited dances in hotels, restaurants and bars, and imposed restrictions on licensing and functioning of dance bars.

The Supreme Court bench headed by Justice A.K. Sikri noted that there could not be a total prohibition for dance bars in Maharashtra. The bench upheld the 2016 law but diluted the many restrictions in it like the requirement of a partition between the performance area and the bar area, ban on serving alcohol in the dance stage area and the restriction that dance bars could not operate within a radius of 1 km from an educational institution or a place of religious importance.

The court also did away with a mandatory monthly salary that was stipulated in the 2016 law and said that there should be a mandatory written contract between performers and bar owners.

The court also quashed Maharashtra government rule that mandated CCTV cameras in dance bars citing that it would violate privacy. However, the Supreme Court upheld the government decision allowing them to operate only from 6.00 pm to 11.30 pm.

The Maharashtra government tried to argue that prevention of obscenity in public places is a part of public policy in India and was reflected in the provision of Indian Penal Code (IPC) and that the 2016 act was consistent with it.

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