Bar dance not art, it promotes obscenity’

Holding that dance performances in bars are not an art form that needs to be promoted and protected, the Maharashtra government told the Supreme Court that such dances are "vulgar and derogatory", which need to be regulated to protect the honour and dignity of bar girls.

Justifying its decision to bring in a new law to put various restrictions on dance bar owners, the state told SC that in many cases, dance bars were being used to run prostitution rackets and it was duty-bound to curb such activities.

"The dances in question are not classical forms of dance. The girls...are not trained artistes. There is no art in their dance. Such dances have very limited entertainment value. In such a situation, the possibility of dances becoming obscene to attract customers is inherent," the government said in its affidavit filed in SC. "In the absence of art being preponderating element such performances tend to become...obscene, therefore it is duty of the state to regulate such performances to prevent obscenity in public places and to protect the dignity of girls who are recruited for such dance performances."

The state framed Maharashtra Prohibition of Obscene Dance in Hotels, Restaurants and Bar Rooms and Protection of Dignity of Women Act 2016, putting stringent condition on bar owners to run their business such as liquor would not be served in the area where bar girls performed, bar owners have to install CCTV cameras and run their business only between 6.30 pm and 11.30 pm.

The law has been challenged in SC by the Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association which contended that the curbs were imposed to prevent them from carrying on business. It said the new rules violated earlier SC judgment which held that it was a fundamental right of owners and bar girls to run bars.

"It has come to notice that prostitution rackets are being run through pickup points in hotel establishments in which dance programmes are being conducted," the state said.

The SC had earlier questioned the state for its decision to ban serving of liquor in dance bars and to put them under CCTV surveillance and termed its decision "absurd" and "regressive" while allowing owners to carry on business irrespective of new rules.