Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association (AHAR) Vs The State of Maharashtra
Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association (AHAR) Vs The State of Maharashtra - Important Supreme Court Judgment Decided On 17th January 2019,
In the case of Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association (AHAR) & Anr. v. The State of Maharashtra & Ors. [Writ Petition (Civil) No. 576 of 2016], having examined the challenges to certain provisions of the Maharashtra Prohibition of Obscene Dance in Hotels, Restaurant and Bar Rooms and Protection of Dignity of Women (Working therein) Act, 2016, the Supreme Court held that “even when the impugned Act appears to be regulatory in nature, the real consequences and effect is to prohibit such dance bars. The State, thereby, is aiming to achieve something indirectly which it could not do directly. Such a situation is beyond comprehension and cannot be countenanced”.
Quashing such offending provisions of the said Act as well as of the Rules framed thereunder, the Court observed that “it cannot be denied that dance performances, in dignified forms, are socially acceptable and nobody takes exceptions to the same. On the other hand, obscenity is treated as immoral. Therefore, obscene dance performance may not be acceptable and the State can pass a law prohibiting obscene dances. However, a practice which may not be immoral by societal standards cannot be thrusted upon the society as immoral by the State with its own notion of morality and thereby exercise ‘social control’.”
It was observed that “the present legislation is given a cloak of bringing regulatory regime to regulate the places where there are dance performances. For this purpose, the impugned Act does not permit dance performances without obtaining licence under Section 3 of the Act. Further, it makes obscene dances as penal offence. No quarrel on this. However, at the same time, many conditions are stipulated for obtaining the licence, which are virtually impossible to perform. It is this reason that not a single establishment has been issued licence under the impugned Act even when it was passed in the year 2014.”
The Supreme Court said that it has “quashed those provisions of the Act and the Rules which” it “found as unreasonable and unconstitutional” with the hope “that applications for grant of licence shall now be considered more objectively and with open mind so that there is no complete ban on staging dance performances at designated places prescribed in the Act.”