Bar dancers hail SC decision to lift ban on dance bars in Maharashtra

Bar dancers in Mumbai and Pune have hailed the Supreme Court's decision to lift a ban on dance bars in Maharashtra.

The apex court had stayed a 2014 amendment of Maharashtra Police Act on Thursday and directed state police to ensure that the dignity of women was unaffected when they were performing as dancers.

In July 2013, the Supreme Court had allowed dance bars in Maharashtra to reopen, eight years after they were shut down by the state government.

Breathing a sigh of relief, a bar dancer said it was difficult to make two ends meet due to the ban.

Varsha Kale, one of the petitioners in the case, urged the Mahrashtra Government to allow dancing in bars with some restrictions to prevent vulgarity and prostitution.

Once a fixture in Bollywood films, dance bars were thought to be meeting points for the Mumbai mafia in the 1980s and 1990s. Bollywood filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar's 2001 movie 'Chandni Bar' starring actress Tabu, put the spotlight on these dance bars and the people who work there.

Bhandarkar said the government should also consider the livelihood of these dancers before taking a decision on the matter.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has said his government will go in appeal against the Supreme Court stay order on the 2014 amendment to the state police act banning dance performances in bars and some other places.

"Although SC interim order mandates regulation instead of ban on dance bars, Govt still favours ban. We will examine and press our demand in SC," Fadnavis tweeted shortly after the apex court removed the ban and allowed licencing authorities to regulate indecent dance performances.

The apex court bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Prafulla C Pant said it is 'appropriate to stay the provision' that prohibits the dance performances and noted the said provision was brought back in the Maharashtra Police Act in 2014 after being held ultra vires in 2013 by the top court.

"However, we have a rider that no performance of dance will be remotely expressive of any kind of obscenity...the licensing authority can regulate such dance performances so that individual dignity of woman performer is not harmed," the bench said.

The apex court fixed the petition filed by Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association for final hearing on November 5 adding that a similar matter had already been decided in 2013.

The Maharashtra government had reintroduced the law in 2014 to bypass an SC judgment which had struck down a similar law a year ago. The SC had in April 2013 upheld the right of women bar dancers to follow their profession and dismissed the state government's appeal to ban them.

The court had then questioned why Maharashtra did not find it indecent or derogatory to the dignity of women if they worked as a receptionist, waitress or bartender at such bars and backed the Bombay high court verdict quashing the 2005 ban.

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