Swati Deshpande, SC seeks state reply on dance bar ban, The Times of India, February 7th, 2015. Available at: http://bit.ly/1Q5AGTO

The Supreme Court on Friday directed the Maharashtra government to reply to a petition challenging a fresh 2014 law that reintroduced a ban on dance bars, which the apex court had a year earlier held unacceptable and unconstitutional. The SC is hearing a second round of challenge that puts the fate of over 75,000 whose livelihood as dancers still on hold, a decade after the first ban.

A petition filed by Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association (Ahar) came up before a bench headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu, who sough a brief rundown. Jayant Bhushan and Prasenjit Keswani, counsels for restaurant owners, said the state had with total disregard for the SC's judicial order passed a fresh amendment in June 2014 to the Bombay Police Act of 1951 that governs permission to restaurants and bars to reintroduce the ban. Section 33A of the Act, which the SC had in its July 2013 judgment held as violative of women's fundamental rights, was back in a new avatar through an amendment with almost the same wording, the petitioners said.

The state, which was issued a court notice last September, has yet to file its reply. The SC asked the state's lawyer, Ravi Adsure, why the reply had not been filed. The state sought six weeks but the SC said it must be done within three weeks. The new ban also applies to dance performances in hotels starred three and above.

"Maharashtra's re-enacted law virtually overrules the judgment. It once again imposed a total ban on the performance of dance of any kind or type in eating houses, permit rooms and beer bars and cancelled all validly held premises and performance licences for dance,'' the petition said.

The ban, introduced by the state in 2005, was challenged in the Bombay HC. It was set aside in 2006. The state took the mater to the SC, challenging the HC order only to be told off again.

The restaurants' association, which pursued the matter as many of its members are affected by the ban, alleged that the amendment was the result of "personal vendetta'' and introduced with "great haste as some politicians who made it a prestige issue and want to defeat the SC judgment, also want to shield themselves from willful contempt of court''.

The ban, said the petition, will give rise to illegal privately-run dance and mujra parlours which, unlike restaurants and bars, are not governed by the Bombay Police Act. Performances can be regulated at dance bars, women can earn a livelihood and the state will earn revenue, the hoteliers said.