The Supreme Court today slammed the Maharashtra government for not complying its October 15 order to lift the ban on dance bars across the state and ordered it to grant licenses to 60 applicants before it within two weeks.
“We remind that the state is obliged by law to enforce the order without any deviation. An order passed by court has to be respected..issue licenses to bars in two weeks”, Justice Dipak Misra, heading the bench, said in the order.
The court also agreed to hear a intervening application filed by Vinod Patil, the President of R R Patil Foundation urging the court to re-impose the ban Seeking withdrawal of the interim order, he contended that the bench headed by justice Dipak Misra did not give adequate hearing to the Maharasthra government before arriving at a decision on the plea by Hotel and Restaurant Associations
Senior lawyer Harish Salve appearing for the Maharashtra government said “the bars were a great draw among the youth and they drinking heavily and watching dance was completely unacceptable to the state”.
Besides the youth going astray, Salve said reopening of dance bars could also result in increase of crime and prostitution across the state.
Salve said the state government banned dance bars after noticing the negative impact on youngsters, who indulged in selling their ancestral properties, getting astounding prices and showering money in dance bars. He said the state would place before the court sociological data in support of these arguments on February 10, the next date of hearing.
But Justice Dipak Misra, asking the government to issue licenses to 60 bars to host dance performances within two weeks, maintained that people have a right to carry out a profession and so long as they perform it within acceptable parameters. “There cannot be any prohibition..women who have got distinction in a particular type of dance cannot be deprived off adopting it as their profession”, the judge said
Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis has already said his government will file an appeal against lifting of the ban.
Dance bars have been a contentious issue in the state, despite successive governments, cutting across the political divide, branding them as fronts for prostitution.
The law banning dance bars was passed unanimously without a debate in June 2014, after the top court had quashed an earlier law banning dance performances in bars the year before.
The order came on a petition by restaurant owners who challenged the amendment and sought contempt of court action against the Maharashtra government arguing that the state was thwarting the intention of the court.
The court agreed that though it had set aside a similar provision, the law had been brought in a new manner. The court has posted the matter for further hearing on November 6.
Last year, ostensibly to nullify the SC ruling that had paved the way for dance bar owners lift their shutters once again, the Congress-led Maharashtra government had cleared an amendment to plug the legal loophole, which had led the court quash the ban in 2013.