Friday, 13 June 2014

Amended law may not stand legal challenge

The dance bar ban in Maharashtra will continue with the state cabinet amending its 2005 law to prohibit performances in bigger, starred hotels and removing the bias the Supreme Court had pointed out in the legislation to shoot it down.The draft will be tabled during the ongoing assembly session, said parliamentary affairs minister Harshavardhan Patil on Thursday , clarifying that once passed, the law will effect a total ban on dance bars and dance performances at five-stars. However, it does not extend to family parties in pubs and discotheques, and orchestras.
In 2005, the Maharashtra government had amended the Bombay Police Act, prohibiting dance performances in permit rooms, beer bars and eating houses across the state in a bid to ban dance bars.
The new move has left the hotel industry flabbergasted.
There is no clarity at the moment on whether special dance events, like on New Year's Eve, would be allowed in hotels. It is to be seen what the new amendment says.
To my knowledge, bars and dances will not coexist at all,“ a source close to the development said, indicating that there might not be any relaxation.
The final draft of the amended law will be made public when it is placed in the legislature.
The source added that according to the draft, within 30 days of the law being approved, existing dance bar licences will be cancelled and the deposits returned. A punishment of three year's imprisonment and Rs 5 lakh in fine has been proposed for those who breach the law.
The government has plugged one loophole, but still the amended law might not stand if challenged legally, the source said. The discrimination among patrons was one of the grounds the Supreme Court had raised while striking down the ban.
The more crucial points the courts had raised was the right of artistes to perform and women's right to earn a livelihood.
Last year, a bench of then Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice S S Nijjar said the state's decision to amend the Bombay Police Act and im pose a ban on dancing in bars by girls in the name of ensuring safety of women and curbing obscenity was an overreaction. “It reflected lack of thinking to search for viable alternatives and resulted in largescale joblessness among women,“ the bench had said.
In 2005, while banning dance bars, the government had branded the bars as dens of iniquity and fronts for prostitution. It claimed they corrupted the young and were meeting places for criminals. Bar owners, activists and NGOs contested the ban, saying the establishments only staged dance shows. The dancers' labour union feared many of its members would be forced into prostitution.
In 2006, the Bombay high court ruled that the ban violated the constitutional right to earn a living and was against public interest.
There were around 400 dance bars in Mumbai before the ban. They employed over 65,000 women and 40,000 men, with the dancers earning up to Rs 25,000 per month.
Post-ban, the loss to government and industry was pegged at over Rs 3,000 crore.
On July 16, 2013, the Supreme Court upheld Bombay HC decision to junk the ban on dance bars in the state. TIMES VIEW: Banning dancing in bars must be one of the stupidest measures ever employed for controlling crime (which has been the government's avowed motive) anywhere in the world.
Controlling crime syndicates and the laundering of dirty money (which, according to the government, goes into funding bars) requires political and administrative will; it does not require a clamping down on forms of entertainment.
The move is anachronistic and defies all logic.

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