ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Mission Impossible

The Maharashtra government is bent on moral policing rather than simply maintaining law and order.

Had the Maharashtra government’s perseverance in doggedly pursuing the banning of dance bars also been reflected in many other issues of public interest, the people of this state would have been in an enviable position. To recap briefly, the state government amended the Bombay Police Act in 2005 to ban dance performances in “eating house, permit room or beer bar”. The ostensible reason was that dancing in bars was derogatory to female dignity and “likely to deprave, corrupt or injure the public morality or morals”. Bar owners and bar dancers went to the Bombay High Court (HC) which set aside the amendment. The government appealed to the Supreme Court (SC), which in 2013 upheld the HC’s ruling. Since the government sat on the licence applications of bar owners despite the apex court ruling, the applicants moved a contempt petition before the SC. Now on receiving the SC’s contempt notice the government is insisting on bringing a law in the current assembly session to ban dance bars though there are dissenting opinions within the cabinet.

With state elections slated for October this year and the popularity of the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) government at an all-time low, it is rather baffling that the cabinet is expending time and effort pandering to the home minister’s pet project. The years since 2005 have thrown up any number of suggestions and insights on the issue, none of which the state government seems to be heeding. Ironically, conscious as the state allegedly seems to be of women’s dignity, it has not taken a single step that can be construed as even remotely beneficial to the thousands of female bar dancers, almost all of whom hail from the most vulnerable and exploited sections of Indian society and have been hit hard by the government’s stubbornness.

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