The Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed three dance bars in Maharashtra to operate without CCTVs inside, serve liquor and stay open till 1.30 am. These three are the only bars to have been granted a license to operate under stringent new rules introduced by Maharashtra earlier this year.The apex court ruled that dance bars will continue to operate under the old rules and regulations, which include the permission to serve liquor with CCTV cameras at entrance. The bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice C. Nagappan ruled that per bars granted license should be allowed to continue under old terms and conditions. However, the bench didn’t put the new rules on hold and scheduled the next hearing for November 24.The new rules by state government limit the timings of the dances up to 11.30 p.m., prohibit serving of liquor and mandates installation of CCTV cameras in the dance bar itself. The court observed that if a bar has been issued a licence, it can’t be restricted from serving liquor. Appearing for the Maharashtra Government, senior counsel Shekhar Naphade defended the new rule that mandates the dance bars to install CCTV in the dance area. The Maharashtra government argued that it’s a part of the police power of the state. Naphade objected that the state has the power to regulate and it’s under government’s right to make sure that regulations are complied with. “The only way it can be implemented is through CCTV,” Naphade said in the court.
However, the bench, which apparently seemed unconvinced with counsel’s statement said, “We understand logically and constitutionally the powers of the police.” On the other hand, counsel Jayant Bhushan, appearing for the dance bar owners, told the court that CCTVs had a chilling affect on the people coming to dance bars. “People have some right to privacy,” he said. Earlier, the bar owners had challenged the stringent norms regulating bars in Supreme Court. The Maharashtra government had justified the need for these restrictions to ensure the safety and dignity of women working in these establishments. On August 30, the apex court had issued a notice to state government asking it government to reply within six months. In its petition, the dance bar owners had objected to the restriction of maintaining a 1-km distance from any religious or educational structure claiming it was not possible in metro cities.