'Crimes' of past may come to haunt bar owners who want to reopen

Mumbai

Criminal cases registered in the past eight years might come in the way of owners seeking licences to reopen dance bars.

"The state government is yet to communitcate whether it will appeal the Supreme Court order or allow dance bars to operate with stringent regulations. Home Minister R R Patil is expected to convey the government decision in the Assembly tomorrow. However, if licences of dance bars are to be renewed, serious criminal offences registered against owners under PITA (Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act) and for assault will definitely be a factor," Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh said Sunday.

"Violations of minor rules and deadlines can be overlooked but serious offences will have a bearing on whether licences will be granted."

Anil Gaikwad, legal advisor to the dance bar association, said, "Mumbai Police will have to follow the Supreme Court order. If cases are pending against bar owners in courts, their licences should be renewed till the verdict is out. In the past, police have renewed licences of dance bar owners found guilty after they had served punishment."

President of Mumbai Bar Owners' Association Manjeet Singh Sethi said, "Around 150 PITA cases were registered against bar owners in Mumbai last year, most of which were false. Very few bar owners have been spared PITA cases or have not been booked for obscene acts and songs under IPC section 294. Let police tell Supreme Court what they intend to do, we know legal remedies. Any of the 24 petitioners in the case can file an application before Supreme Court for direction to the state government to implement its order."

To open or not is the question

While owners of some top dance bars in Mumbai have started other ventures since the ban in 2005, others said they wished to restore their orchestra bars and restaurants but were apprehensive of police harassment and new regulations.

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