Mumbai : Confusion reigns supreme on the dance bar issue, with the State government firm on implementing the new law for regulating these joints, while the dance bar owners saying that they will only be complying with the earlier law.

In its most recent hearing, the Supreme Court had said that licenses must be issued to the eight dance bars that had filed the affidavit in the court in this regard. On this, the Mumbai Police had issued  licenses to the three bars that had paid the fees of Rs two lakh, while the rest are still to make the payment.

According to Sadashiv Shelar, senior police inspector in-charge of issuing licenses, as far as the administration is concerned, the new law is already in place and this is the one that is going to be used for regulating the dance bars. “The SC had said that the licenses should be issued to the bars and this has been done. But the Protection of Dignity of Women Act 2016 is going to be used for allowing these joints to start their performances,” he explained.

Sources said that there is some confusion over what the SC has said in its latest ruling and what has been understood by most dance bar owners. “Some bar owners feel that they will now get blanket permission for starting their dance bars and there will be no rules and regulations binding on them,” a senior officer said.

However, this is not going to be the case and all the rules under the new law will definitely be implemented, the officer said. One of the most important parts of this is that the bars will have to close by 11.30 pm and there will be no obscenity or vulgarity allowed inside the joints. Further, violation of these rules will mean a fine of Rs 5 lakh for the bar owner and a jail term of five years. Even the customers can face a penalty of six months of jail and a fine of Rs 50,000 if they are found touching a bar dancer.

Police sources said that this is perhaps the reason that the bar owners have suddenly cooled off on the idea of starting the bars. “Firstly, the fees have been raised from Rs 2000 to Rs 2 lakh and then the rules are very strict. This could be the reason that even the remaining bars that were supposed to get licenses have so far not approached the administration for this purpose,” he explained.

Responding to this situation, Ramanna Shetty, bar owner from Kandivali (W) said that it is just not possible to run the dance bar business even for a day under the new law. The new law states that the joints must shut down by 11.30 pm. But the fact is that customers actually start coming in only by 10 pm and want to sit till late night,” he pointed out. If the administration is going to insist on the new law then no bar owner will be interested in running this business, he said.