In 2005, when the incumbent state home minister R R Patil, who was then deputy chief minister, announced a ban on dance bars, he received fulsome praise by his followers as well as those unaware of the legal and administrative nitty-gritty
Charged by a chorus of denunciation against the bars for socio-moral dubiety, Patil failed to take sufficient care while introducing key changes in the Bombay Police Act to outlaw the bars.
He did not realise the blunder of the home department, which forgot that other state departments dealt with dance bars too. The revenue division, for instance, levied entertainment duty from them. So what followed when the state’s battle against the bars went to the Supreme Court was an embarrassment.
Even close to three months after the SC judgment lifting the ban, the state has not cleared its stand on reopening of bars. The state has a huge administrative set-up, a battery of lawyers, and separate departments for law and judiciary. Its fumbling, then, is a cause for unease.
The dogged clampdown on bars largely follows the staunch position taken by Patil, a believer in moral policing. But he has forgotten the plain and simple fact that his police could well have stopped proliferation of dance bars and the dubious practices he believes go on in their shadows, even under the regulatory framework extant at the time. The bars did not care to adhere to the rules only because of an unmindful police.
Patil must accept that as far as law enforcement goes, his own policemen let him down. His force was quite active during the days of dance bars, and he could have set the house in order before resorting to this moral coercion.