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State mulls next move to get out of bar ban checkmate

The state government will now comb legal niceties to choreograph its next step to stamp out dance bars. Reacting to the Supreme Court decision overturning the ban on dance bars in the state, Home Minister R R Patil said the state would seek legal opinion from experts and legislators and study the SC judgment.

As of now, the government has three options to save itself blushes: to go for a new legislation, to further amend the relevant section of the Bombay Police Act, or file a review petition before the apex court, Patil told media persons at Vidhan Bhavan in the monsoon session of the state legislature.

“We will take our decision only after studying the SC judgment,” Patil told media persons at Vidhan Bhavan.

Meanwhile, Congress MLAs recall how even former chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, during a meeting, had cautioned the home department on the fate of the decision.

“As chief minister I am endorsing your decision, but as a lawyer I feel it may not stand on legal parameters,” the ex-CM, who had a law degree, had said during one of the meetings held on banning dance bars. Deshmukh upheld the decision announced by his deputy R R Patil on March 30, 2005 in the state assembly.

A series of meetings were held during Deshmukh’s tenure, as the state had to go for an amendment in the Bombay Police Act, 1951 and get its approval in the legislature. It was later set aside by the Bombay High Court, and the DF government had to appeal in the apex court.

Flashback
The state was so keen on implementing its decision during 2005-06 that its officials had visited dance bars in Mumbai to make a study. During one of the meetings a senior lawyer asked a senior official whether he had ever been to a dance bar. When the officer said he hadn’t, the lawyer asked how he was going to defend the government’s decision through the affidavit to be filed in court.

After that, senior officers from the home department started visiting dance bars to put up a strong defence. Despite making a strong pitch through its affidavit and appointment of senior counsels, the state lost.

“We feel the state’s decision was weak on two crucial points. The government failed to convince the court of law as to how a dancer who performs in a star category hotel was doing it for her livelihood and a dancer in a dance bar was in the business illegally, and second, how a star hotel could continue with dance performances legally while a small bar was doing it illegally,” an official said on condition of anonymity.

The officials in the know of the development say that even today there is utter confusion over dance bars. “In order to run a restaurant and dance bar, one has to apply for a hotel permit from the police; to sell liquor, a licence has to be procured from state excise department; and the performance licence is given by the state censor board for drama and culture.

The form in which the bar girls entertain customers has not been specified in any rule of law,” said an official, adding that things were going on as the concept of dance bars was developed.

Meanwhile, the state council showed solidarity with the government and supported the decision. The house was adjourned on Tuesday after a brief discussion on the issue. 

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