Mumbai: Jail term of up to six months for inappropriately touching or misbehaving with a bar dancer and hefty fine for violating licence norms are some of the key provisions of a landmark Bill passed today in Maharashtra Legislative Council with an aim to regulate dance bars.
The Bill, which sets the stage for reopening of dance bars after more than a decade, and comes post a recent Supreme Court verdict, was passed in the Upper House by voice vote with Deputy Chairman Vasant Dawkhare in Chair.
The Bill was piloted by Leader of the House and Minister for Revenue Eknath Khadse.
The legislation seeks to prohibit "obscene" dances (dances which have sexual connotations, sexual gestures, actions which hint at sexual intercourse during a performance) in hotels, restaurants, bar rooms and other establishments.
It lays down guidelines to "protect the dignity and safety of women in such places with a view to prevent their exploitation".
Any person seeking a licence under the new law to open dance bars in hotels, restaurants and bar rooms will have to provide conducive working condition for women employees and take adequate steps for their protection.
Besides, the owner will have to ensure adequate security of people visiting such a place. Dance bar licence will not be issued for places which already have permission for discotheque and orchestra.
The owner/manager of such an establishment, if found violating the licence conditions, shall face a jail term of up to 5 years or Rs 25 lakh fine or both. If he continues to violate the norms, a fine of Rs 25,000 will slapped per day.
A patron cannot misbehave with the dancer or touch her inappropriately. Violating this rule shall invite a jail term of up to 6 months or Rs 50,000 fine or both.
The owner/manager will not let dancers perform any "obscene" dance and shall ensure no woman is sexually exploited. If found guilty, such a person shall invite a jail sentence of 3 years or Rs 10 lakh fine or both.
Further, if the person continues to commit the same crime, each day a fine of Rs 10,000 shall be imposed.
According to the legislation, a patron will not be allowed to throw coins, currency notes or any object that are monetary in nature on the dance floor.
The Bill is expected to be introduced in the Assembly tomorrow, and going by the all-round support it received in the Council, a smooth sailing is likely in the Lower House too.
In October last year, the Supreme Court lifted the ban imposed on dance bars in Maharashtra. The original ban came into effect in 2005 when Congress-NCP Government was in power and the move had received support from all political parties.
The ban on dance bars, once inseparable part of Mumbai's night life, was later challenged in the apex court by hotel and restaurant owners which operated these centres.
After the last year's SC verdict, the BJP-Shiv Sena Government formed a 25-member committee with legislators from all parties to deliberate on the issue and make suggestions.
Announcing the ban, the then Home Minister R R Patil had said, "the Government considers that such performance in an indecent manner is derogatory to the dignity of women and is likely to deprave, corrupt or injure the public morality or morals."