BANGALORE: The High Court on Wednesday struck down the Karnataka government’s ban on dancing in bars.
Accepting the contention that dancing is a right covered under the fundamental Right to Expression, the court ordered the government to amend Rule 11(1) of the Karnataka Excise Licences Rules of 1967, which prohibits dancing on premises licensed to sell and serve liquor.
Justice Ashok B Hinchigeri passed the order on a petition filed by Chef Inn Regency and two dancers, Guruvinder Kaur and Gurujeet Kaur, challenging the ban. The court directed City Police Commissioner Raghavendra Auradkar to consider, within two months, an application filed by Chef Inn Regency for permission to run a dance bar.
M Krishnappa, counsel for the petitioners, had submitted that the ban on dancing violated the provisions of the Constitution. Dance is a part of the fundamental Right of Speech and Expression, as upheld by the Supreme Court, and is protected by Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, he argued, citing two precedents.
Karnataka’s ban violated the right of bar dancers to practise an occupation and earn a living from their creative skills. The Supreme Court 2013 order, in a case between the Maharashtra government and the Indian Hotel and Restaurants Association, had held that dancing is a fundamental right, Krishnappa had contended.
In the same order, the Supreme Court had directed the Maharashtra government not to hinder the functioning of dance bars.
Soon after, on August 22, 2013, Chef Inn Residency sought to run a dance bar in Bangalore, but the police commissioner had refused permission.
Challenging the denial of permission, the inn and two dancers filed a petition in the High Court, seeking directions to the government to strike out ‘dance’ from the activities banned.
What Does Rule 11(1) Say?
Rule 11(1) of the Karnataka Excise Licences Rules of 1967, which applies to bars, says:
certain acts not permitted - No gambling, dance gathering, feast or any kind of entertainment or unlawful act shall be permitted in such premises.
The court has now directed the Karnataka government to knock off ‘dance’ from the list of activities prohibited in places licensed to sell and serve liquor.