New Delhi : The Supreme Court on Monday described dancing as a “performance of art” and observed that it was better to dance then take to the streets for begging or going to “places which are not acceptable” to earn a livelihood.
The observation came during a hearing of a petition by the Indian Hotel & Restaurant Association challenging new rules framed by the Maharashtra Government for the dance bars in the state.
The Bench was reacting to those seeking to oppose the dance bars on the ground that “what was happening inside bars was not cultural dancing but obscenity.”
“Mindset cannot be to prohibit…We cannot decide on subjective morality, obsce-nity is however defined,” the Bench said and added: “This is 2016. Dancing is an established profession. But if it becomes obscene, then it does not have legal sanctity.”
Elaborating on this theme, the bench further said: “As a state, you have to protect the dignity of the woman. You can’t say that if a woman goes to a workplace and there is obscenity, then the workplace should go.”
On the complaint of the dance bar associations that the state has made it “impossible” to get licenses, the Supreme Court pulled up the Maharashtra government for framing rules that prohibit dance bars within one km of educational or religious institutions.
Stressing that such a condition amounts to prohibition, the court said the government’s measures should not be prohibitory. The government counsel assured the court that they will revise the rule.
The Maharashtra government had suspended the licenses of hundreds of bars and hotels that featured women jiving to Bollywood tunes. After several appeals over the years against the ban, the Supreme Court had asked the state to issue licenses from March 15 on the condition that certain rules are adhered to.
These rules include closed-circuit televisions at the entrance, a limit of four dancers per bar, a railing around the performance area, a distance of at least 5 feet (1.5 m) between the stage and customers.
About 139 bars and hotels in Mumbai, and about 1,200 in the state, have applied for licenses following the Apex Court directive, according to an industry lobby. Of those in Mumbai, 39 have been inspected till date but not given clearance. Four of these were initially given licenses only to be withdrawn later.
The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Maharashtra police to verify within one week antecedents of dance bar owners to allow them to get licenses. It also asked the Maharashtra government to verify whether the conditions which had been approved by it are being adhered to.
The Maharashtra government, which opposes dance bars on the grounds of obscenity, got the Dance Bar Regulation Bill passed unanimously by the state Assembly on April 12 that prescribes jail up to five years and fine up to Rs 25,000 for violations by the owners of the dance bars.