Mumbai: The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed a controversial law banning dance bars in Maharashtra, which provided employment to thousands of women. The court said the Maharashtra police will ensure that dignity of women was not affected by the dance performance. Dance bars have been a contentious issue in the state, where the government branded them as fronts for prostitution.
In 2005, the police cracked down on dance performances in bars. Elite establishments, including five star hotels, were exempted.
After the top court ruled that dance bars would be allowed to operate in 2013, the Maharashtra assembly passed a law in June 2014 banning dance bars. All political parties were on the same page on the issue and the law was passed unanimously without a debate. But restaurant owners had challenged the law, arguing that the state had brought a new law to ban bars when the court, the year before, had quashed a law which banned dance performances.
The court agreed that although it had set aside a similar provision, the law had been brought in a new manner. The court will hear the case again on November 5. There were around 700 establishments across Maharashtra, which employed more than 75,000 women who performed Bollywood-style dance routines. Apart from salaries, they received cash tips from the people in the bar. The dancers’ union had opposed the ban, saying many of its members would be forced into prostitution if the state refused to allow dance performances.