x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Indian court lifts ban on dance bars in Mumbai

India's top court has overturned a ban on dance bars in the city of Mumbai, allowing hundreds of premises that employed women to dance and entertain customers to reopen.

NEW DELHI // India's top court yesterday overturned a ban on dance bars in the city of Mumbai, allowing hundreds of premises that employed women to dance and entertain customers to reopen.

The ruling upheld a 2006 judgment by the high court, which said the ban instituted by the Maharashtra state government a year earlier breached the constitutional right to earn a living.

The decision came amid concerns over "moral policing" in Mumbai, India's financial capital and the home of Bollywood, where police have enforced several strict measures in recent years.

The rules included early closing hours for nightclubs, excessive red tape, outdated rules on overcrowding and an increase in the minimum age to buy beer from 21 to 18.

The supreme court judges, Altamas Kabir and SS Nijjar, said they agreed with the high court's decision "that struck down the amendment in the Bombay Police Act whereby closing down dance bars in the city of Mumbai".

The decision will allow dance bars to operate legally after a forced hiatus of several years, while the state government appealed against the court ruling.

About 700 premises across Maharashtra state employ more than 75,000 women who perform Bollywood-style dances, and are showered with cash in return.

The state government had called the bars dens of iniquity and fronts for prostitution. It claimed they corrupted the young and were meeting places for criminals.

Bar owners, activists and non-government organisations contested the ban and denied the allegations, saying the establishments only staged dance shows.

There was no comment on the ruling from the state government, which has waged a long campaign against the dance bars.

The dancers' labour union had said the ban would force many of its members into prostitution to earn a living.

In ritzy bars in Mumbai frequented by businessmen, dancers who usually bared only their midriffs were able to earn more than Dh350 a day. They made far less in less prestigious premises.