The Supreme Court on Wednesday gave orders to the Maharashtra government to issue dance bar licences to hotels and restaurants in the state by 15 March. Modifying conditions to provide the permits, the court excluded mandatory installation of CCTV surveillance cameras in the establishments. The court also ruled against the government’s demands to have access to live CCTV feeds from the dance bars emphasising that placing CCTV cameras near performance areas amounts to violation of privacy. The court, instead, enforced surveillance only at the entrance of dance bars.
The apex court bench comprising Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Shiva Kirti Singh gave time of three days to the owners of the hotels and restaurants to comply with the modified rules. The bench stated that competent authorities would issue licences in 10 days and thereafter.
The apex court modified seven conditions that were imposed by the Maharashtra Police for granting dance bar licences.
“We are certain that the competent authorities will not conceive of anything to stall the grant of licence,” the court said, adding that the “authorities will comply with the command of this court and not venture to defy it”.
Chief Standing Counsel of the Maharashtra Government, Advocate Nishant Katneshwarkar told this newspaper: “The bar owners had strong objections to seven conditions. The two main objections were in regard to the requirement of installation of CCTV cameras in the interiors and erection of a railing or non-removable partition.”
“The court has ruled that there needs to be a railing of three feet in the dancing area and more importantly there should be a distance of at least five feet between the dancers and the viewers,” he said.
“The court said that a maximum of four dancers can perform in a bar at any given time. Our intention is solely to prevent any kind of obscenity and to protect the dignity of the women who work in these bars as bar dancers,” he added.
Reacting to the Supreme Court’s order, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis took to micro-blogging site Twitter. He said: “State can't permit obscenity it has seen in the past in dance bars. We will approach the Hon'ble Supreme Court with an alternative,” adding, “State Government is also contemplating to move a suitable legislation in the legislature.”
The court order comes after the Maharashtra government’s move to water down some of the conditions for providing dance bar licences. The petitioner Indian Hotels and Restaurant Association had appealed to the Supreme Court on 24 February that some of the conditions that were imposed by the government for granting these licences were unreasonable.
The court, on 24 February, had asked the Maharashtra government to revisit the conditions. In October last year, the apex court had stayed a legislation passed by the Maharashtra Assembly that declared dance bars illegal.