While hearing a petition filed by two businessmen from Surat who were found in a bar in Mumbai during a police raid, the Bombay High Court granted interim relief to them by giving them exemption from appearing before the trial court.
Advocates Mateen Shaikh and Ansar Tamboli appearing for the two businessmen told the court that the men were just sitting in a bar and drinking liquor. At this, Justice PD Naik asked, “Why did you go there? There are different kinds of bars.”
Shaikh and Tamboli explained that the patrons cannot be prosecuted under the Maharashtra prohibition of Obscene Dance in hotel, restaurants and bar rooms and protection of dignity of women (working therein) 2016 as they are mere customers and not owners or workers of the bar.
Public Prosecutor Arfan Sait appearing for the Mumbai Police said that this was a case of 2016 when a decoy customer had gone into the bar and had seen 15 customers showering money at the performers. The men were apprehended for obscene acts.
At hearing this, Justice Naik asked, “The people who were performing, shouldn’t they be prosecuted for obscene acts?”
Sait explained that the accused were sitting in the bar and showering money. “Showering money is an obscene act,” said Sait. The bench asked, “They were showering money?” Sait asserted, “They were.” However, Sait sought some time to go through the chargesheet filed by police against the accused.
The accused had to appear before the magistrate court for framing of charges. However, the court granted them exemption from appearance so the charges will not be framed against the accused until the high court hears the case.
While granting the relief, Justice Naik said, “In the meantime, you don’t go to the bar.” When Shaikh and Tamboli said it was just to drink liquor, the bench again said, “But that does not mean that you should keep going there.”
In 2016, the Tardeo Police raided the Drumbeat bar in the Girgaon area of Mumbai. Custody of the bar owner, cashier, waiter, employees, 10 women dancers and customers were taken and police had seized 40 notes of Rs 20.
In this case, police had invoked section 294 (Obscene acts and songs) of Indian Penal Code (IPC) and a few section of Maharashtra prohibition of Obscene Dance in hotel, restaurants and bar rooms and protection of dignity of women (working therein) 2016.
The accused had moved application for discharge under section 239 of CrPC on Nov 21, 2019. The magistrate court as well as the sessions court later rejected it. It was against the lower court order that the accused had approached the High Court.
The advocates argued that the lower courts had ignored the fact that there were no allegations against the petitioners that they are not doing any obscene dance or any act in a public place which is essential ingredients of section 294 of IPC. Section 294 states, “Whoever does an obscene act in a public place and due to which somebody has annoyed then section 294 of IPC is attracted.”
The plea added, “It is a matter of record that nobody had come to lodge a complaint against the petitioners with the allegation that they were doing any obscene act due to which the person was annoyed and thus lodged complaint.”