SC allows conditional running of Mumbai dance bars

State can't thrust its own notion of morality on people: SC

In its judgement, the top court found substance in the condition that there can't be showering of currencies on the artists but held that there can't be any prohibition on giving tips to them.

The Supreme Court on Thursday said a practice which may not be immoral by societal standards cannot be thrust upon the society as immoral by the state with its own notion of morality, exercising "social control."

The top court said a particular activity, which was treated as immoral a few decades ago may not be so now, as dance performances, in dignified forms, are socially acceptable.

A bench of Justice A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan partly upheld the validity of a 2016 Maharashtra law and quashed some of the provisions, paving the way for a smooth show at the dance bars.

The court quashed stringent conditions like putting CCTV cameras at the entrance of dance bars of Mumbai, saying it is “totally inappropriate and amounts to an invasion of the right to privacy”.

The top court found substance in the condition that there can't be showering of currencies on the artists as it aimed at checking any untoward incident but held that there can't be any prohibition on giving tips to them.

The court also quashed a provision mandating segregating dancing floor from bar room, saying “it seems that the state is more influenced by moralistic overtones under the wrong presumption that persons after consuming alcohol would misbehave with the dancers.”

It also said the condition like dance bars should not fall within a distance of one km from school and a religious place can't be sustained in a city like Mumbai for being almost “impossible”.

The bench, however, upheld a condition which stated that there has to be a written contract between bar dancers and their employers. But it set aside a provision ensuring monthly salary for the artists, holding, “It impinges upon the rights of such workers who may, otherwise, be free to give their performances at more than one place. Therefore, it imposes restriction even upon such employees and infringes their right under Article 19(1)(g) (right to occupation) of the Constitution,” the court said.

The top court also approved timing of 6 pm to 11.30 pm for dance bars in Mumbai, saying it was not “manifestly unreasonable”.

The court, however, quashed a condition that the licence for running dance bars can be provided to persons with good character and clean antecedents, saying those terms were not defined in the law.

To a plea that the bar dancers must be included in the grievance redressal committee, the court said it was for the legislature to take a call on the issue.

The court's judgement came on a batch of writ petitions filed by Indian Hotel and Restaurants Association, challenging the validity of the 2016 Maharashtra Prohibition of Obscene Dance in Hotel and Bar Rooms and Protection of Dignity of Women Act.

Two other organisations, Bhartiya Bar Girls Union and R R Patil Foundation, have also filed separate petitions in the matter.

The court said since 2005, no fresh licence for dance bars was given which amounted to a total prohibition.

In its verdict, the court upheld the definition of obscene dance and the maximum punishment of three years jail term for indulging in it.

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SC allows conditional running of Mumbai dance bars

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