Cabinet approves new Bill; to be placed in Assembly

Almost a year after the Supreme Court lifted the ban on dance bars in Maharashtra, the State Cabinet on Thursday approved a new Bill to reimpose it. The new Bill has extended the ban to three-star and five-star hotels which had earlier been excluded from the restriction.

“We plan to introduce the Bill in the State Assembly on Friday and it will then be referred to a Select Committee for discussion,” said Parliamentary Affairs Minister Harshavardhan Patil.

The Maharashtra government had banned dance bars in 2005. Subsequently, the Bombay High Court struck down the ban as unconstitutional. This stand was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2013, on the grounds that the ban violated the fundamental right to livelihood. The Supreme Court also felt the ban was discriminatory since it did not allow dancing in bars but allowed it in luxury hotels.

Now, the new Bill will ban dancing in cultural events and festivals even if they are held in luxury hotels.

Women’s groups say they will challenge the Bill in court. “The Supreme Court [had in 2005] lifted the ban mainly because it supported the fundamental right of these girls to work in the entertainment industry. How does extending the ban to luxury hotels address that? We will challenge the Bill in court,” said chairperson of Sanmitra Prabha Desai, who had petitioned the High Court against the ban.

She pointed out that after the ban was imposed, the dancers lost an important source of livelihood and were pushed further into poverty. “The bars shut overnight, there was no rehabilitation programme. It’s hypocritical that the State allows dancing in Bollywood but not in dance bars,” said Ms. Desai.

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