NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday pulled up the Maharashtra government for not granting licence to dance bars and warned it not to overstep its powers by defying the apex court order.
The apex court also criticized the state government for framing rules that prohibit opening of dance bars within a distance of 1km from educational institutions.
“Dance is a profession. If it is obscene, then it loses its legal sanctity. However, the government regulatory measures can’t be prohibitory,” the SC said.
“It’s better for women to perform in dance bars than begging on streets or indulging in unacceptable activities,” the SC said.
The Maharashtra assembly had on April 12 unanimously passed the Dance Bar Regulation Bill, which has provisions for stringent actions against the violators.
The new bill fixes accountability on the owner in case of violation of rules, exploitation of women employees, or in cases of obscenity.
Owners or operators face up to up to five years in jail and fines of up to Rs 25,000 for violations. Separate rules are being formulated on this, based on the provisions of the Bill.
According to the new conditions, dance bars must be at least a kilometre from any education or religious institution, their timings restricted between 6pm and 11.30pm, and liquor not to be served in the performance area.
The bill also bans running bars in the residential buildings and permits them in semi-residential ones only if the three-fourths residents consent.
The bill also has a provision to repeal amendments to Section 33 (A) of the Maharashtra Police Act that were earlier struck down by the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court, during hearings between October 2015 and March 2016, struck down two amendments through which the Maharashtra government banned dance bars.
The court, however, clarified the Maharashtra government has the power to contain ‘obscenity’ and safeguard women who work at the bars.
Following this, the Maharashtra cabinet decided to bring in a new law to regulate dance bars.