Maharashtra bar dancers move SC challenging the state government's performance ban

Although the association members scoffed at being termed as "bar girls", they formed the organisation "Bharatiya Bargirls Union", and questioned the Maharashtra Prohibition of Obscene Dances in Hotels, Restaurants and Bar Rooms and Protection of Dignity of Women (working therein) Act, 2016 as violative of their right to earn a livelihood through legitimate ways

Maharashtra bar dancers move SC challenging the state government

The Maharashtra bar dancers association on Monday has moved Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of a 2016 state law banning public dances by women dancers, waitresses, singers and other performers in bars.

Although the association members scoffed at being termed as "bar girls", they formed the organisation "Bharatiya Bargirls Union", and questioned the Maharashtra Prohibition of Obscene Dances in Hotels, Restaurants and Bar Rooms and Protection of Dignity of Women (working therein) Act, 2016 as violative of their right to earn a livelihood through legitimate ways. The apex court will hear the petition on the coming Monday.


Advocate Nikhil Nayyar filed the petition and the body said the law unreasonably interferes with free choice of expression through dramatic performances and the right of women to practise the occupation of self-expression through such dramatic performances. The complaint added that the law stigmatised their work.

The argument of the state that the performers displayed obscenity was baseless and based on "popular" beliefs, the association said. The 2016 rule may completely prohibit dance performers in bars as the definition of "obscene dance" provided under this law had been kept vague so that the law enforcing agencies can target women performers and harass them.

The association in its complaint said that performances in bars were choreographed in a manner to imitate the Bollywood dance. "As a matter of fact, such performances are common in weddings and other functions," Times of India quoted as the complaint saying.

The complaint also questioned the ban of tipping by the customers. "The act of tipping or giving gifts as a token of appreciation has been customary and an integral part of traditional dance culture. This decades-old practice is akin to those performing Mujra, Lavani (traditional Marathi song and dance) or Tamasha (traditional Marathi theatre) where performers earn their living through 'bakshisi' offered by the audience as token of appreciation of the performances. The said practice is widely prevalent in Maharashtra and across the country. But the Act prohibits such practice contrary to the traditionally accepted form of custom, thus failing to recognise that every performance deserves ," the body said.