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Indecent proposal: new nightlife policy leaves Chandigarh admin in a hot mess

Rajeev Khanna | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:50 IST
The policy

  • Chandigarh administration has come up with a policy that controls bars, discotheques etc
  • Renewal of licenses are dependent on adherence to the policy clauses 
  • The policy suggests that women cannot be seen in mini skirts in bars or clubs

More in the story

  • How is the administration defending this policy?
  • What do bar owners have to say ?

An ambiguously drafted policy that leaves several points for individual interpretations has placed the Chandigarh administration in the eye of a storm.

Those opposing the "Controlling of Places of Public Amusement, 2016" policy, say it smacks of moral policing while threatening to strangulate the city's nightlife. They feel that it will be the babus deciding what dress is 'indecent' and whether a place of amusement is of a 'scurrilous' character. The policy suggests that women would no longer be able to enjoy their drinks in bars and discotheques if they are in mini skirts. The policy fails to define what the administration deems as 'indecency' or 'scantily clad women'.

The administration iterated that this was not an attempt at moral policing and no dress code has been prescribed for anyone. Home secretary Anurag Aggarwal said, " We do not want to promote Inspector Raj. If there is interference in business (of places of amusement) we are open to modifying the policy." He said that women can wear anything as long as it is within the law of this country."

The policy that came into effect from 1 April, has curtailed bar timings till midnight. Those running bars and discotheques say that this has allowed the bureaucracy to exercise more power over them, which would make running their ventures a very difficult task.

Read- Gul Panag on #ShortSkirtBan: State can't decide what women wear; speak up, Kirron Kher

According to the policy a nodal committee with the deputy commissioner as chairman and municipal commissioner, Chandigarh Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) , director health services and excise, and taxation commissioner as members, have the power to refuse renewal of permission for business operations.

The policy states that the committee can deny permission for running a bar or discotheque if the operation of business is considered to be 'indecent or of scurrilous character'. The permission can also be denied if the business contains 'offensive reference to personalities' or if it is 'seditious or likely to excite political discontent'. What has amused people is the idea that seditious activities may be brewing in bars and discotheques according to the bureaucrats.

Anurag Aggarwal said that it is just an assumption and pointed out that all the clauses of the policy are merely a repetition of existing laws. He said that the policy has been formulated following directions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

The policy doesn't exactly define 'indecency' or 'scantily clad women'

Sources said that the administration swung into action to formulate such a regulation policy after a firing incident outside a pub more than two months ago.

The policy also states that any exhibition or advertisement whether by way of posters, photographs or in the newspapers, of scantily dressed women would also invite denial of permission.

Another clause that paves the way for misuse by the members of the nodal committee states that, 'the members of the committee shall be given free access to any place of public amusement by way of reservation of two seats in the highest class of accommodation for the purpose of monitoring the ongoing activities in the given place'.

"It's moral policing. The definition of a scantily dressed woman or being indecent is subjective? Would they also apply the same policy to the film posters and other advertisements that are circulated. A dress may be very comfortable for some, but indecent for others. It is all subjective," said Manish Goyal, a restaurant owner.

He further added, "We have no objection on being regulated when it comes to things like installing CCTVs, appointing a set number of bouncers, providing safety and security arrangements etc. But this is like a curfew and imposition of Inspector Raj."

Another bar owner Vipul Dua said, " Such a policy would only take the city back in time. We want a smart city with smart bars and restaurants, not a city going down. Such a policy would definitely lead to a depressive sentiment. We have people from all walks of life coming to us including bureaucrats. Over the last two years only two incidents of violence have taken place in bars and restaurants, while ten instances have taken place in parks. Would the administration now think of a restrictive policy for use of parks?"

Aggarwal felt that too much was being read into the policy. "We just want that women should not be portrayed in an indecent form."

On the issue of the chances of harassment by the officials of the committee, he said the policy does provide for appeal. "This is a guideline that defines authority. No action can be taken unilaterally. It is not the end of the world. The complainant has always got the option of legal recourse."

Critics of the policy say that this is nothing but an attempt at moral policing

He said the policy has been drafted with a view to regulate the related businesses in Chandigarh. "It aims at taking preventive steps for the convenience of citizens and to maintain law and order within the city. The fact therein that nowhere in the policy it has been mentioned that females can't wear skirts while going to the places defined in the policy. The only motive of framing the policy is to provide a conducive atmosphere for the guests visiting such places and to avoid any unlawful activities or any untoward incident. Chandigarh administration assures all the residents and visitors that their rights will never be infringed."

Meanwhile there are reports that following the curtailment in timings on account of the policy, the footfall in bars and pubs in the adjoining Zirakpur that falls in Punjab have increased. The youngsters now prefer to go to these places outside of Chandigarh.

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First published: 21 April 2016, 6:57 IST