SC grants permission to ‘Munni badnam hui’ bars

The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected certain conditions like providing live CCTV footage to Police on performances in dance bars and asked the Maharashtra government to grant licences to owners within 10 days after they comply with modified guidelines.

A bench comprising justices Dipak Misra and Shiva Kirti Singh gave three days to dance bar owners to comply with the modified conditions.

“We are inclined to modify the conditions of installation of CCTV cameras and providing the live footage to the police. We direct that the CCTV cameras shall be installed at the entrance only and not at the restaurant or performance areas,” the bench said.

“We direct the respondent (Maharashtra government) to grant the licences within ten days hence, if they comply with modified conditions. The modified conditions shall be complied within three days from today,” the bench said.

It also warned the authorities against deviating from the court directions and asked them to ensure strict compliance with the modified conditions.

Read: After SC verdict on dance bars, Maharashtra govt contemplating legislation

It, however, clarified that modified conditions are interim in nature and would be subject to final outcome of the main petition challenging the amendments in the law governing dance bars in the state.

Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand, appearing for Maharashtra government, argued that CCTV cameras needs to be installed in performance areas as well as in restaurants for the safety of bar dancers and to prevent untoward incidents.

“Possibility of irregular behaviour will always be there if the CCTV cameras are installed at the lobby or entrance areas and not at the performance area,” the ASG said.

The bench then observed that Maharashtra police can deploy its personnel over there but no CCTV cameras can be allowed in the performance areas.

The court also modified the conditions of separating the stage and audience areas by a railing and said three feet high railing will be put up in the front.

The ASG then said that railing will be put from all sides as many a times the stage is the middle of the restaurant. To this the bench said, “The dance performers can’t be caged. You can’t put them in a cage.”

It further allowed that four bar dancers can be allowed in the stage at one point of time while the remaining dancers can stay in other places.

The bench also allowed for verification of criminal antecedents of dance performers and setting up of green room for them.

Among other conditions, which the court allowed was setting of non transparent partition between restaurant and permit room area after the petitioner Indian Hotels and Restaurant Association agreed to it.

The bench also said that permit area or the stage cannot be altered without the prior permission of competent statutory authority and posted the matter for further hearing after two weeks.

Earlier, on February 24, the apex court had come down heavily on Maharashtra government for putting conditions for granting licences to dance bars across the state.

The dance bar association, represented by senior advocate Jayant Bhushan, has red flagged certain conditions.

The association had objected to the condition that makes it compulsory to dance bar owners to “ensure that adequate number of CCTV cameras which will live feed continuously to police control room be installed to cover the entire premises which will record the entire daily performance and the same would be monitored by a specially appointed person on a monitor/ display.

The apex court had in November last year pulled up the Maharashtra government for not complying with its October 15, 2015 order, asking it to consider granting licences of dance bars to hoteliers and had ordered it to process such pleas within two weeks.

On October 15, 2015, the apex court had stayed the operation of 2014 amendment in Maharashtra Police Act that had banned dance performances at bars and some other places, paving the way for reopening of dance bars across the state.

The order had come on a petition filed by Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association challenging the amendment and sought contempt of court action against the Maharashtra government.

The court had noted that the provision was brought back in Maharashtra Police Act in 2014 after being held ultra vires in 2013 by the top court.