Maharashtra Dance Bars Law: Here’s a list of what’s been struck down by Supreme Court and why

Supreme Court: Partially upholding the validity of the Maharashtra Prohibition of Obscene Dance in Hotels, Restaurant and Bar Rooms and Protection of Dignity of Women (Working therein) Act, 2016 and the Rules made thereunder, the bench of Dr. AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan held that the State must have an “open mind” in matters relating to staging dance performances in dance bars. It said:

“State cannot take exception to staging dance performances per se. It appears from the history of legislative amendments made from time to time that the respondents have somehow developed the notion that such performances in the dance bars do not have moralistic basis.”

Below is the list of some important provisions that were struck down in the 100-pages long verdict:

WHAT

WHY

Giving the tips only by adding them in the bills

State cannot impose a particular manner of tipping as it is entirely a matter between an employer and performer on the one hand and the performer and the visitor on the other hand.
Licence to person of “good character”

Provision proving that a person is entitled to obtain or hold licence who possesses a ‘good character’ and ‘antecedents’ and he should not have any history of ‘criminal record’ in the past ten years, struck down for being vague.

1 KM distance from educational and religious institutions

Such a condition does not take into account the ground realities particularly in the city of Mumbai where it would be difficult to find any place which is 1 km away from either an education institution or a religious institution.
Monthly Salary to performers

The condition of employing such persons on monthly salary does not stand the judicial scrutiny. This shows that such persons are to be employed in a particular manner i.e. on monthly basis.

Prohibition on serving of alcohol in the bar room where dances are staged

This is totally disproportionate, unreasonable and arbitrary. State is more influenced by moralistic overtones under wrong presumption that persons after consuming alcohol would misbehave with the dancers. If this is so, such a presumption would be equally applicable to bar rooms where the alcohol is served by women waitresses.

Installing of CCTV Cameras

It is totally inappropriate and amounts to invasion of privacy and is, thus, violative of Articles 14, 19(1)(a) and 21 of the Constitution

The Court, however, upheld the following provisions:

  • Provision disallowing throwing or showering coins and currency notes on the performers.
  • Provision relating to employer and performer entering into a written contract as well as depositing of the remuneration in the bank accounts
  • Provision prescribing timing of such dance performances only between 6 pm to 11:30 pm

Before parting with the judgment, the Court also noticed that many conditions were stipulated in the Act for obtaining the licence, which are virtually impossible to perform. On this, the Court said:

“It is this reason that not a single establishment has been issued licence under the impugned Act even when it was passed in the year 2014. In fact, after the amendment in Maharashtra Police Act in 2005, no licences have been granted for dance bars. Thus, even when the impugned Act appears to be regulatory in nature, the real consequences and effect is to prohibit such dance bars. The State, thereby, is aiming to achieve something indirectly which it could not do directly. Such a situation is beyond comprehension and cannot be countenanced.”

The Court said that it hoped that after this judgment, the applications for grant of licence shall now be considered more objectively and with open mind so that there is no complete ban on staging dance performances at designated places prescribed in the Act. [Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association v. State of Maharashtra, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 41, decided on 17.01.2019]

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