Maharashtra reluctant to revive dance bars

Mumbai, Oct 15 (IANS) Maharashtra hoteliers were jubilant on Thursday after the Supreme Court gave a conditional go ahead for dance bars but the state government seemed reluctant to revive what was once the jewel in Mumbai’s night life that was abruptly killed 10 years ago.

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said the government was in favour of a complete ban on the dance bars, popularly called night clubs, which ruled the city’s night life for nearly three decades till 2005.

“We have not got the complete copy of the order… We had given an affidavit saying we are in total support of the ban,” he told the media.

The Indian Hotels and Restaurants Association (AHAR) welcomed the apex court judgement saying they had got justice after 10 long years.

“We are keen to restart the dance bars as soon as possible. After getting the judgement copy, we shall hold a dialogue with the chief minister,” AHAR president Adarsh Shetty told IANS.

He said the authorities must not view the dance bars as a social evil but as a means to attract tourists.

“Look at the vibrant night life in Bangkok, Shanghai or Istanbul and other cities worldwide. What does Mumbai have for tourists, barring local sight-seeing and good food?” Shetty asked.

He alleged that though hundreds of restaurants had applied for licences, the Mumbai Police sat on them for years though they collected all types of revenues from the hoteliers.

Congress leader Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil urged the government to issue an ordinance and amend the law after plugging all loopholes.

He said the Congress-NCP government had banned dance bars in 2005 as they represented a form of social evil. The move had been widely hailed.

The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed the operation of the Maharashtra Police Act that prohibited dance performances at eating places, beer bars and restaurants.

Noting that the provision was brought back in the Maharashtra Police Act in 2014 after being held ultra vires in 2013 by the top court, Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Prafulla C. Pant said: “We think it appropriate to stay the operation of the provisions enshrined under section 33A(1) of the act.”

However, the court made it clear that the dances should not be remotely explicit or obscene.

It noted that in the earlier judgment of 2013, “it has been clearly stated that sufficient power is vested with the licensing authority to safeguard any violation of the dignity of women..”

Asking Maharashtra to file its response within two days and asking the petitioners to file rejoinder, if any, within two weeks, the directed the listing of the matter for final disposal on November 5.

The dance bars were shut down in 2005 when then home minister R.R. Patil signed the relevant orders. Overnight, 300 official dance bars and around 3,000 illegal establishments in Mumbai were shut down — or converted to regular eateries or liquor bars.

In a single shot, an estimated 60,000 dancers (from the 300 legal dance bars) and another around six lakh in unofficial dance bars were rendered jobless or reassigned as waitresses.

Besides, another 2,400 dance bars in other parts of the state, mainly in Thane, Navi Mumbai, Raigad and Pune, also faced the axe, leaving more than six lakh women unemployed.

The first of dance bars started in a modest way at a sleepy village Khalapur, adjacent to Raigad district, 75 km from Mumbai, in the early 1980s.

Later, it spread like wildfire in Mumbai, Thane, Navi Mumbai, Pune, Raigad and on the highways crisscrossing the state.

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