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SC relaxes rules on dance bars, asks Maha to grant licences

A Bench, comprising Justices Dipak Misra and Shiva Kirti Singh, gave three days to dance bar owners to comply with the modified conditions.

“We are inclined to modify the conditions of installation of CCTV cameras and providing the live footage to the police. We direct that the CCTV cameras shall be installed at the entrance only and not inside the restaurant or performance areas,” the Bench said.

“We direct the respondent (Maharashtra government) to grant the licences within 10 days, hence, if they comply with modified conditions. The modified conditions shall be complied within three days from today,” the Bench said.

It also warned the authorities against deviating from the court directions and asked them to ensure strict compliance with the modified conditions. It, however, clarified that modified conditions are interim in nature and would be subject to final outcome of the main petition, challenging the amendments in the law governing dance bars in the state.

Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand, appearing for the state government, argued that CCTV cameras need to be installed in performance areas as well as in restaurants for the safety of bar dancers and to prevent untoward incidents. “Possibility of irregular behaviour will always be there, if CCTV cameras are installed at the lobby or entrance areas and not at the performance area,” she said.

The Bench then observed that the Maharashtra police can deploy its personnel over there, but no CCTV cameras can be allowed in the performance areas. The court also modified the conditions of separating the stage and audience areas by a railing and said three-feet-high railing will be put up in the front.

Anand then said that railing will be put from all sides as many a time the stage is the middle of the restaurant. To this the Bench said, “The dance performers can’t be caged. You can’t put them in a cage.” 

It further allowed that four bar dancers can be allowed on the stage at a point of time, while the remaining dancers can stay in other places.

The Bench also allowed for the verification of criminal antecedents of performers and setting up a green room for them. Among other conditions that the court allowed is setting up of non-transparent partition between restaurant and permit room area, after the petitioner Indian Hotels and Restaurant Association agreed to it.

The Bench said the permit area or the stage cannot be altered without prior permission of competent statuatory authority and posted the matter for further hearing after two weeks. On February 24, the Apex Court had come down heavily on the Maharashtra government for putting conditions for granting licences to dance bars across the state. 

The dance bar association, represented by senior advocate Jayant Bhushan, has red-flagged certain conditions.

The association had objected to the condition that makes it compulsory to dance bar owners to “ensure that adequate number of CCTV cameras, which will air live feed to the police control room be installed and the same would be monitored by a specially appointed person on a monitor/ display.

The Apex Court had in November last pulled up the Maharashtra government for not complying with its October 15, 2015, order, asking it to consider granting licences of dance bars to hoteliers and had ordered it to process such pleas within two weeks.
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