Supreme Court allows Maharashtra dance bars to reopen

MUMBAI Tue Jul 16, 2013 6:52pm IST

Bar girls perform at a dance bar in Bombay May 5, 2005. Picture taken on May 5, 2005. REUTERS/Punit Paranjpe/Files

Bar girls perform at a dance bar in Bombay May 5, 2005. Picture taken on May 5, 2005.

Credit: Reuters/Punit Paranjpe/Files

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MUMBAI (Reuters) - The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed dance bars in Maharashtra to reopen, eight years after they were shut down by the state government.

The court upheld an earlier Bombay High Court order that allowed dance bar owners to reapply for licences.

"It is about the fundamental right to earn a living and if someone knows only dancing, they should be able to exercise the right to earn a living through that," Flavia Agnes, a lawyer who had earlier represented the bar dancers, told Reuters over phone.

"We are very happy with the Supreme Court's decision," she said.

The dance bars, operating mostly in cities and towns, employed an estimated 75,000 women to entertain customers. They danced to popular Bollywood numbers and accepted money from clients who showered them with rupee notes.

The government ordered the bars to close in 2005, saying they were a bad influence on society and encouraged prostitution.

"This was an example of government's hypocrisy, and the Supreme Court has proven that. Has anyone cared about those girls who lost their jobs?" Manjit Singh, president of the Mumbai Bar Owners Association, told CNN-IBN news channel.

Agnes says it is unclear when the dance bars will reopen.

"Many of the bar owners are completely demoralised and out of funds," she said. "We don't know how long it will take."

Political parties in the state have opposed the Supreme Court's decision.

Once a fixture in Bollywood films, dance bars were thought to be meeting points for the Mumbai mafia in the 1980s and 90s. Madhur Bhandarkar's 2001 film "Chandni Bar," starring Tabu, put the spotlight on these dance bars and the people who work there.

(Reporting by Shilpa Jamkhandikar, editing by Vipin Das M and Tony Tharakan)

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