The Supreme Court order on March 02, 2016 forbade CCTV monitoring of the performance area in dance bars in Mumbai as it would be a violation of privacy. Cameras will only be allowed at the entry and exit points of the bars, the court directed. The verdict does have raised eyebrows among a section of the people.
For all intents and purposes, a hotel, a guest house or a dance bar are all public places where anybody can enter and get a room by paying the prescribed fee or rent. In the same manner any person can enter dance bars by paying the desired fee as one can enter a cinema house by purchasing a ticket. In a cinema house too, the management and owner does not enjoy unrestrained liberty to screen a film which has not been certified by the Film Censor Board. Otherwise, it is a violation of law.
In films too dance items are shot, but these can be exposed to general public view only after these have passed through the penetrating eye of the Censor Board. But in the case of dance bars, there can be no restriction as per the latest directions. An incident of vulgar display of indecency, obscenity or nudity in dance bars will thus be more difficult to detect and still more arduous to prove.
In our system of democracy, a person does have a right to privacy but only within the four walls of his house or room in a hotel. This cannot be extended to a public place. Can a person claim right to privacy in a park or at the dance floor of a hotel if he wishes to indulge in with his wife or a consenting partner what he otherwise can in the solitude of his bed room? When a person goes to a public place, he voluntarily chooses to shed his right to privacy and exposes him/herself to the prying eyes of all who may be present there. The court has allowed CCTV cameras only at the entry and exit points of the bars. That means every person visiting these bars shall be identified and recorded at the entry and exit gate of the bars. An advocate for bargirls argued that CCTV cameras at the bars would not just show the dancers, but also the patrons, who might not want to be identified. This in itself presupposes that there is something undesirable that the ‘patrons’ would not like to be identified. If something obnoxious and undesirable is not being performed in the dance bar, why should the ‘patrons’ feel shy of being identified?
We have CCTVs at every public place — a road, road-crossing, public park, market place, railway stations, bus stands, public places like Ganga and other river banks where men, women and children take a holy dip. Many big shops, departmental stores, shopping malls, petrol pumps, and other places are under CCTV surveillance. Not only that. Some individuals have CCTV cameras in their private houses where the entry and exit of every individual as also what goes on in the house gets recorded. Does it not violate the privacy of the visitors?
In these circumstances, how can the installation of CCTV at dance bars be a pernicious aggression on the privacy of individuals and not at other places? Right to privacy cannot be exploited as a shield to committing undesirable conduct, behavior and activity at a public place.
Amba Charan Vashishth
(The writer is a Delhi-based political analyst and commentator)