No dance bars allowed to operate in Maharashtra, is it moral policing? Supreme Court to Maharashtra government

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Maharashtra government why it has not allowed a single dance bar to operate and wondered if there was moral policing in the state. The top court questioned the state for denial of licences to dance bars and observed that with the changing times, the definition of obscenity has also changed.

The court was responding to the observation of senior advocate representing Maharashtra, who had contended that even today traditional families don’t allow their children to visit dance bars. The senior lawyer also said that whenever a young boy and a girl are seen together, adverse inferences are made. To this, the court said in a lighter vein: ‘‘Earlier, filmmakers would show two flowers or two birds chirping ion movies, instead of showing a kiss or a scene of love making, but now the times have changed”.

Warming up to the theme, the bench of justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan said now even law and society have recognised live-in relationships, which earlier were not acceptable. At the outset, senior advocate Jayant Bhushan, appearing for hotel and restaurants owners who have challenged the new law regulating dance bars, said, the state has made CCTV cameras mandatory in dance bars, which was in violation with the Right to Privacy. “People visiting the dance bar may not want to be seen on CCTV cameras or even the bar girls. This was violation of fundamental rights,” he said.

The bench, said the installation of CCTVs was not in question as they could help in throwing up critical evidence after an incident. “The question is whether dance bars can be considered as a public place, as CCTVs can only be installed in a public place,” the court said. The Maharashtra advocate intervened and said, “A dance bar is a public place”. Bhushan, in turn, argued that there is no empirical data to show that bar girls are trafficked or coerced to take up the job. He also said that it was wrong to take a moralistic view of the bars. The hearing remained inconclusive and would continue on August 23.


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