Issue dance bar licences by 15 March, SC tells Maharashtra

In a relief for dance bar owners, the Supreme Court today asked the Maharashtra government to grant licenses to dance bars by 15 March, and also struck down the ridiculous proviso sought to be imposed by the state government that live feeds of performances must be made available to area police.

The court ruled that no CCTV need be installed around performance areas in dance bars, one of the conditions put by the Maharashtra Police for the issuance of licences to hotels and restaurants with dance performances in Mumbai.

The apex court bench, comprising Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Shiva Kirti Singh, slammed the Maharashtra government, calling the dance bar provisions ''absurd and irrational''.

The court, however, said the CCTV can be permitted for security purposes at the entrance gate.

Giving three days` time to the owners of the hotels and restaurants to comply with the modified conditions, the apex court bench said competent authorities would issue licences in 10 days and thereafter.

"We are certain that competent authorities will not conceive of anything to stall the grant of licence," the court said and added that the authorities will "comply with the command of this court and not venture to defy it".

The court order came after the Maharashtra government watered down some of the conditions for the grant of dance bar licences.

The petitioner Indian Hotels and Restaurants Association had told the court on 24 February that some of the conditions being imposed for the grant of licence were unreasonable. The court had then asked the Maharashtra government to revisit the conditions.

The apex court modified seven conditions imposed by the Maharashtra Police for granting licenses to dance bars in the state. "There were about seven conditions for which the bar owners had strong objections. Two of the main conditions were, with regard to installation of CCTV cameras in the restaurant area and second was erection of railing or non-removable partition," said Chief Standing Counsel of the Maharashtra Government, Advocate Nishant Katneshwarkar

"The court has permitted their condition that there should be a railing of three feet in the dancing area and there should be distance of five feet between the dancers and the viewers," Katneshwarkar added.

The Advocate said that the court has directed that the CCTV camera should be installed at the entrance of the bar only and not in the dancing area.

"Only four dancers are permitted in a bar. Our intention is to prevent obscenity, and protect the dignity of the dance girls," he added.