“This December 31, our bar dancers will have festive celebrations, as they will dance legally,” said Varsha Kale, leader of Womanist Party of India, who has been fighting for them.
Varsha Kale, leader of Womanist Party of India
The Supreme Court asked the Maharashtra government yesterday to implement its earlier order on dance bars, and decide within two weeks on hoteliers’ application, seeking grant of licences for running them in the state. Following this, nearly 30,000 bar dancers could be back to work again.
Mumbai’s dance bars were shut down after former home minister, R R Patil introduced a ban. The courts had since then come to the rescue of the girls and bar owners on several occasions, but the state government was adamant on not letting them stay open. In October, the Supreme Court had lifted the ban imposed by Maharashtra government in 2005 on dance bars.
“The court gave the government two weeks’ time to renew the licences, as they had been surrendered after the dance bars shut down. Our girls will finally be dancing this December 31. This has made us happy,” said Kale.
What the SC said
A bench of justices Dipak Misra and P C Pant expressed unhappiness yesterday that the state was yet to implement its earlier order. Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for Maharashtra, however, said that any direction of the court will be respected and adhered to. The bench, meanwhile, allowed Vinod Patil, president of the R R Patil Foundation, to intervene in the matter. Patil in his plea had claimed that reopening of dance bars would lead to an increase in crime.
The Maharashtra government had amended the 2005 Bombay Police Act, which was challenged in the High Court by the Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association.
The Bombay High Court on April 12, 2006, had quashed the government’s decision and declared the provision unconstitutional, saying it was against Article 19(1)(g) (to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business) of the Constitution.
However, the state government had moved the apex court against the high court’s order that same year. On July 16, 2013, the Supreme Court had upheld the Bombay High Court verdict quashing state government’s order, saying the ban violated the constitutional right to earn a living.
The state Assembly had on June 13 last year, passed the Maharashtra Police (second amendment) Bill which prevented licences for dance performances in three-star and five-star hotels. The ban also covered drama theatres, cinema halls, auditoriums, sports clubs and gymkhanas, where entry is restricted only to members.
— Inputs from Ankoor Anvekar and Agencies
Speaking to mid-day on Thursday, 58-year-old Abdul Aziz Mansoori, a tailor who used to make dresses for dance bar girls, said, “We were overwhelmed after the Supreme Court uplifted the ban on dance bars last month.
Now, as the court has asked the state government to issue licences, it is a dream come true for people like us. We had been waiting to hear this since ages. We are very happy that we can once again go back to our business.
Last month, after the court’s order, many of the girls who used to get dresses made from me had called. Now I am hoping that very soon they will start approaching me for business once again.”
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis tweeted on the Supreme Court’s directive. He said: We respect SC order. However, we’re principally against opening of dance bars. Will explore all legal options including legislative intervention.