New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed the operation of 2014 amendment in the 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.
Referring to the brief history of judicial pronouncement in the case and subsequent amendment in the state law, a bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra and Prafulla Chandra Pant said "We think it appropriate to stay the provisions section 33 (A)(1) of the Maharashtra Police (second amendment) Act."
The court however added a rider to its interim order and allowed the licensing authorities in the state to regulate indecent dance performances at bars and other places.
"However, we have a rider that no performance of dance will be remotely expressive of any kind of obscenity...The licensing authority can regulate such dance performances so that individual dignity of woman performer is not harmed," the bench said.
The apex court has now fixed the petition filed by Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association for final hearing on November 5 and said that the matter pertaining to the similar issue had already been decided by this court in 2013.
Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Maharashtra said at the outset that interim relief may be granted to the Association and added that 2014 amendment in the Act is distinct by its nature.
The Maharashtra government had brought an amendment in 2005 -- the Bombay Police Act -- which was challenged in high court by an association representing restaurants and bars.
The Bombay High Court on April 12, 2006 had quashed the government's decision and declared the provision as unconstitutional saying that it is against Article 19(1)(g) (to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business) of the constitution.
However, the state government had moved the apex court against the high court's order that same year.
On July 16, 2013, the Supreme Court upheld the Bombay High Court verdict quashing the state government's order and had said that the ban violated the constitutional right to earn a living. The state assembly however, on June 13, 2014, passed the
Maharashtra Police (second amendment) Bill which prevented licenses for dance performances in three star and five star hotels.
The ban also covered drama theatres, cinema halls, auditoriums, sports clubs and gymkhanas, where entry is restricted only to members.
The 2014 amendment in the Maharashtra Act was challenged by the Indian Hotels and Restaurant Association and others before the apex court.