SC clears decks for dance bars in Mumbai

New Delhi, March 2 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Wednesday cleared the decks for the issuance of dance bar licences to hotels and restaurants in Mumbai as it modified the conditions for the permit and dropped the insistence on installation of CCTV cameras at restaurants and dance performance area.

“The modified conditions along with conditions on which there is no cavil shall be complied with within three days (by the petitioner Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association) and the respondents (licensing authorities) shall issue the licences within ten days therefrom,” said the apex court bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Shiva Kirti Singh in their order on Wednesday.

“We are sure, the authorities shall act in accordance with the command of this Court and not venture to deviate,” the court said in its order, clarifying it would brook no delay or dilly-dallying on the part of licensing authorities in complying with its order.

“We are certain that competent authorities will not conceive of anything to stall the grant of licence,” the court said in the course of the hearing.

The court order came after the Maharashtra government watered down some of the conditions for the grant of dance bar licences which the IHRA said were impermissible under the constitutional framework.

Not accepting Maharashtra’s stand on the installation of CCTV cameras in the restaurant and performance area, the court modified it and said: “CCTV cameras shall be fixed at the entrance of the premises in question but shall not be fixed in the restaurant or the permit area or the performance area.”

To separate the dance performers at the stage and the audience, the court accepted modification by senior counsel Jayant Bhushan appearing for the petitioner IHRA, and directed that there should be railing of three feet height and not the non-removable partition as suggested by the licensing authorities.

The court said only four dance performers would be permitted on the stage at a particular time with no restriction on the movement of other artists within the hotel premises.

“Four dancers can perform on the stage at one time but there can be other artistes at other places inside the premises,” the court said in its order.

Permitting a green room for the artistes, the court made it clear that no concealed cavity or a room would be created. “We so direct. Be it clarified, green room means green room in the manner in which it is understood in the classical sense,” the court said in its order.

Earlier, the condition concerning the verification of the “character and antecedents” said that “the licensee shall ensure that the character and antecedents of all employees is verified by the police”.

This was modified to say that the “criminal antecedents” of all the employees would be verified by police.

The petitioner IHRA told the court on February 24 that six of the conditions being imposed for the grant of licence were “impermissible under the constitutional framework”.

Besides, it had sought the modification of the condition providing for the police verification of the “character and antecedents” of the hotel employees.

On February 24, the court asked the Maharashtra government to submit its response to the objections to these conditions.

In the course of the last hearing on February 24, the petitioner IHRA told court that of 157 applications for the issuance of dance bar licence, the competent authorities have entertained 101 applications but they have been saddled with the conditions some of which are “absolutely impermissible under the constitutional framework”.

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