NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has put on hold the controversial ban on dance bars in Maharashtra with a view to allowing women the right to earn a living. Hearing a petition against the last year legislation which sought to ban dance bars across the state, the Supreme Court upheld the 2006 verdict of the Bombay High Court which had ruled against the ban.

The Court directed the government to ensure that women’s dignity is not affected in the course of their work as dancers. It also granted the licensing power to the government authorities so that the latter can keep a check on whether women are being forced into indecent activity.

The ban on dance bars in Mumbai had first come in 2005, which prohibited any dance performance in restaurants, bars, and eateries while exempting the three star and five star establishments from same restrictions. The Bombay High Court in 2006 had stayed the ban calling it a contradiction to the Article 19 of the Fundamental Rights. The stay was then followed by a petition against it in the Apex court.

In 2013, SC upheld High Court’s decision on the grounds of discriminatory approach of the ban in favor of 3-star and 5-star hotels.

Maharashtra Government then passed legislation in 2014, an amendment in Maharashtra Police Act, calling for a blanket ban on dance performance throughout the state across all kinds of establishments, which reserved a fine of one lakh and a punishment up to three years for violation.

The ban had met with staunch protests from members of civil society, women rights activists, and NGOs then. It was observed that before ban approximately 65000 women were employed as bar dancers in Mumbai alone, across 400 such bars in the city. The loss to the business post-ban was calculated to be 3000 crore. The decision of the government was challenged on the ground that thus unemployed women will be forced into prostitution, defeating the very purpose of curbing ‘indecency’ through the ban.