A new policy from the Chandigarh administration has banned short skirts in discotheques, The Times of India reported on Wednesday.
The ‘Controlling of Places of Public Amusement, 2016’ policy, which came into effect on April 1, has not only curtailed the bar timings by two hours from 2am to 12 midnight, but also gives unprecedented powers to the administration to enforce the ban by denying permission for renewal of licences.
The policy states permission can be denied by a nodal committee – which includes the deputy commissioner as chairman, and the municipal corporation commissioner, Chandigarh police SSP, director, health services, and excise and taxation commissioner as members – in case of "exhibition or advertisement of scantily dressed women" and "indecency" or if it is "seditious and likely to excite political discontent”.
However, it fails to detail what ‘scantily dressed women’ or ‘indecency’ is, nor does it define what acts might attract charges of sedition.
The new policy’s conditions for denial of permission to run an establishment include if it is deemed to be indecent or of a scurrilous character; exhibits or advertises scantily dressed women; is seditious or likely to excite political discontent; contains offensive reference to personalities; promotes hostile feelings between different classes; or is calculated to cause a breach of peace.
The policy has been framed by the order of Punjab and Haryana High Court for the union territory (UT) administration to regulate the operations of city bars and restaurants after a number of violent incidents were reported from outside discotheques.
Hoteliers in the city have expressed their opposition to the new rules, saying it is tantamount to moral policing, besides being vague and harsh.
The Times of India report has quoted a city-based restaurateur Manish Goyal as saying: "It's moral policing. How do you define a scantily dressed woman or being indecent? It is all subjective. What you may find indecent, I may find innocent. The administration should not reject permissions on such parameters at least".
Lawyer Anupam Gupta, who studied the draft of the policy, told the newspaper that the entire policy was flawed. "The entire notification is completely without any authority of law and the onus would be on UT to show under which law or which legal power they have passed this notification,” he was quoted as saying.
The President of Joint Forum of Young Entrepreneurs and owner of a bar in Sector 35, Vipul Dua said he has never heard of any instance of sedition linked to any of the city bars or restaurants. “I am amazed that UT could make such a provision in the policy as ground for shutting down business,” he was quoted as saying.
Senior advocate Ranjan Lakhanpal told the newspaper that the administration’s policy was “… completely incorrect. It's moral policing and in violation of fundamental rights of citizens. The UT administration has not used the word 'indecency' and 'sedition' in relevant manner and is behaving like a dictator.”