The state is flexing considerable legal muscle to come up with an ordinance squashing dance bars once again, after the Supreme Court lifted the ban on them on July 16 this year.
The home department, headed by NCP man R R Patil, is grinding away to forge a fresh order re-imposing the ban on the bars. “We will have to do something urgently as the SC judgment will be three months old on October 16, and the people concerned are eagerly awaiting the government’s response,” said a senior government functionary.
Over half a dozen high-level meetings have already taken place, following legal opinion from state advocate general Darius Khambata.
Incidentally, though, the fate of the ordinance being fashioned in the home ministry’s furnace is tied to a nod from the revenue ministry, which collects entertainment duty from bars. Any decision striking down the bars will choke off a revenue line for the state, but the home department -- nervy as it is since revenue top brass is yet to offer its comments on the matter -- will forge on anyway.
Since Home Minister Patil is vehemently opposed to the bars on moral and social grounds -- a posture backed by the state cabinet, there is no possibility of reopening of dance bars, the official said, but added a reference to a legal provision made by the revenue department.
According to the provision in question, dance bars within BMC limits have to shell out Rs 30,000 annually in taxes under the Bombay Entertainment Duty Act, while bars outside city limits must pay Rs 25,000.
Before a fresh ordinance overruling the SC verdict can be issued, the revenue department’s levy on bars must be scrapped. “It’s the only legislation where dance bars find a specific mention and linked to an official fee. Nowhere else does the definition of dance bar exists,” said another government official.
“The home ministry wants to and will make a watertight case, taking into consideration the views expressed against reopening of the bars during the monsoon session of the state legislature, soon after the July 16 verdict,” said the official.
Number of bar owners who have applied to the Mumbai police’s licensing department for a renewal of dance bar permits
In course of law
The Maharashtra government brought in an amendment in the Bombay Police Act, banning dance bars.
It was challenged in the Bombay High Court by an association representing restaurants and bars. The high court quashed the government’s decision.
Case in SC
The state government then moved the Supreme Court against the high court’s order that same year.
In July 2013, the SC upheld the high court’s verdict.
No need for permit renewals: Bar association
According to police data, some 90 bar owners have applied to the Mumbai police’s licensing department for a renewal of bar permits. Deputy Commissioner of Police Sharda Raut said, “We have received applications for renewal of dance bars, but they are still being processed.”
But representatives of dance bars claim the question of renewing licenses does not arise.
“We already have the licences with us. Following the Supreme Court order, around 800 of 1,200 licence-holders across the city approached the police to include dance bar permits in the existing clause.
As the dance bar issue was taken to court, the licensing department at the time blanked out the entertainment clause in the licence with white ink, with a remark that the matter is sub-judice. With the SC order in our favour, we approached the department to erase that remark so we would be allowed to operate dance bars,” said Pravin Agarwal, vice-president, Bar Owners’ Association.
He added, “The authorities are trying to mislead us on the issue by claiming that we require renewals for dance bar licences.”
Dancing to state’s tune
State’s new edict intends to revoke dance performance licences given to star category hotels. It will also tighten provisions for procuring such licences, so it is difficult for anyone to open a dance bar, sources said.
Varsha Kale, president, Bharatiya Bar Girls Union
If the state brings in an ordinance prohibiting dance bars, we will have no choice but to fight back. Thousands of girls are waiting for the bars to get started. We already have two judgments in our favour and it will not take a lot of time to get a fresh one.
Pravin Agarwal, secretary, Mumbai Hotel Association
Most bar girls are not aware of any such forthcoming action by the state. After the apex court’s decision, many of them got their hopes up for a secure future and even got dresses stitched for performances.
Alifia Bano, 32, former dancer who waits at the Borivli diner where she used to perform
We celebrated the SC judgment but we are still waiting for the bars to reopen. We have not yet got a green signal to work like before, when I used to earn a decent sum of money. But after the decision shutting down bars, I find it difficult to even sustain my family.
Monika, 22, first who joined a dance bar when she was 14
I was happy with the court’s decision that came in July, allowing dance bars to operate. I have made some preparations and have also called some former customers.
-- Inputs by Vedika Chaubey
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