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SC orders state to grant license to dance bars by March 15

The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the Maharashtra government to grant licences to dance bars by March 15.

Asking whether the State government was “playing truant”, a Bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Prafulla C. Pant gave it exactly two weeks to process 60 applications received from hoteliers for licences to host dance shows in their bars and restaurants.

The Court also refused to allow the state government’s demand that there be a live feed from a dance bar to the nearest police station saying that the CCTV coverage of the performance area would be a violation of privacy.

“They are a huge draw, a huge temptation for youngsters. They come, drink and watch dance,” said senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for Maharashtra.

“That is a presumption,” Justice Misra countered.

“No, it is a sociological reality,” Mr. Salve argued.

Justice Misra then questioned the State’s attitude, asking why it considered dancing at a bar a “social evil”. “People have a right to carry out a profession as long as they carry out this profession within social norms. Why did you bar them?” Justice Misra referred to the clampdown on dance bars by the Maharashtra Assembly despite the Supreme Court, in 2013, upholding that “dancing is a fundamental right.”

Soon after the order, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis tweeted, “We respect the SC order. However we’re in principle against opening of dance bars.”

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