Maharashtra Assembly passed law to ban dance bars on Friday.
The state government on Thursday upheld home minister RR Patil's moral policing and not only stayed the ban on dance bars in Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra, but also extended it to three-star and five-star hotels. The cabinet approved a draft amendment bill.
The move comes as a blow to thousands of bar girls and others associated with such establishments who had hoped to regain their livelihood following a Supreme Court order last year.
The new bill seeks to amend the Dance Bar Prohibition Act to remove a 'legal lacuna' on the ground of which the apex court had struck down the state government's 2005 order to ban dance bars.
Earlier, when the matter had come up before the cabinet, several ministers had pointed out that the Bombay high court and later the Supreme Court had already rejected a similar legislation and hence it would be unwise to persist with it. In any case, the issue did not merit the kind of attention that was being given to it by Patil, it was felt by some ministers.
But Patil, who's been obsessed with the issue, was adamant about re-introducing the law despite the earlier setback in the high court and the apex court, a senior Congress minister told dna on Thursday. So, to prevent a loss of face for Patil, the cabinet decided to go for a ban covering three and five star hotels as well. These two categories of hotels had been exempted in the earlier legislation to which the SC had observed that the government cannot discriminate between various categories of hotels.
A bar owner said: "We will challenge the new law. We thought acche din aa gaye hain... But, today's decision is a retrogade one."
"As per article 19, each person has the right to livelihood; so the state government cannot ban dance bars. It will hamper tourism. The state economy is already dwindling. The corporate world needs some entertainment and there's nothing wrong with that," said a senior Congress minister.
"Patil is more bothered about moral policing than controlling crime in the state. The police too had suggested that it would amount to contempt of court if we implement the Act. We have already lost the case in the Supreme Court. It is just a face-saving exercise for Patil ahead of the state assembly polls," said another Congress minister.
Patil belongs to the NCP.