Maharashtra dance bar ban

In 2005, Section 33 A and Section 33 B was inserted to the Bombay Police Act, 1951. Section 33A prohibited performance of all types of dance in eating houses or permit rooms or beer bars. Section 33B permitted three-star hotels and Government associated places of entertainment to hold dance performances.

In the court cases that followed, the government basis for the ban was that dancing bars were against public morality. Further, they relied on a SNDT report which said that most girls working in these bars came from outside Maharashtra. This indicate a trafficking route through which these girls were brought. According to the government, these dancers were often forced into prostitution by their owners. Thus, the government justified the ban on the grounds of women empowerment. However, after the ban 75,0000 dancers who were employed had to resort to prostitution in order to provide for their family which defeated the whole purpose of the ban.

The Indian Hotel & Restaurants Association filed a writ petition challenging Section 33A of the Bombay Police Act, 1951 before the Bombay High Court on the grounds that such prohibition violated fundamental rights.

Article 14: Discriminates between different establishments as hotels with three-star rating can conduct bar dances.

Article 15: The prohibition discriminates against women in public places (dance houses)

Article 19(1)(a): Dance is a form of expression, prohibition on dance restrict freedom of speech of expression

Article 19(1)(g): It restricts the freedom of profession of bar dancers as well as that of the hotel owners.

Article 21: Freedom of profession is essential to right to life.  

Another ground for challenge was that a state government doesn’t have the power to make laws based on public morality.

The Bombay High Court held that Section 33A is violative of Articles 14 (equality) and 19(1)(g) (right to work), of the Indian Constitution.[i] Following the judgement, the government appealed to the Supreme Court to uphold the ban. In 2013, the Supreme Court upheld the judgement of Bombay High Court and ordered Maharashtra Government to remove the ban.[ii]  The Maharashtra Government did not follow the Supreme Court order and extended the ban to all kinds of establishments. Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association challenged this second ban on dance bars. In January 2019, The Supreme Court upheld the previous decisions and further struck down certain provisions, which has been enlisted below. [iii]

  • Prohibition on serving of alcohol in the bar room where dances are staged
  • Installing of CCTV Camera: It leads to invasion of privacy and is, thus, violative of Articles 14, 19(1)(a) and 21 of the Constitution.
  • 1 KM distance from educational and religious institutions: This restriction is unreasonable considering that Mumbai is a highly congested city.
  • Giving the tips only by adding them in the bills: State cannot impose a particular manner of tipping as it is entirely a matter between an employer and performer on the one hand and the performer and the visitor on the other hand.

Even after the second Supreme Court Judgement, the state has refused to issue licenses to establishments.

[i] Indian Hotel And Restaurants  Association vs The State Of Maharashtra, 006 (3) BomCR 705

[ii] State Of Maharashtra & Anr vs Indian Hotel & Retaurants Association.

[iii] State of Maharashtra & Anr. vs. Indian hotel & restaurant association & ors., 2019 SCC OnLine SC 41


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