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Supreme Court permits women bartenders in Delhi

Legal Correspondent


Delhi Govt. cites Jessica Lal and BMW cases to

highlight dangerous consequences of bars

It is the duty of the State to ensure safety of

women who choose to work at bars: Court


NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday permitted employment of women in bars and liquor-serving restaurants in the National Capital Territory of Delhi. The Court also removed the ban on employment of men below 25 years of age.

The Court was dealing with the constitutional validity of Section 30 of the Punjab Excise Act, 1914, as applicable to the NCT of Delhi prohibiting employment of men aged below 25 and women as bartenders.

The Delhi government cited the examples of Jessica Lal and BMW cases to highlight the dangerous consequences of sale and consumption of liquor by young men aged below 25 and vulnerability of women working in bars. Rejecting the contention, the Bench of Justice S. B. Sinha and Justice H. S. Bedi said: “When the restrictions were in force, they could not prevent such occurrences. If the restriction goes, some such incidents may again happen. But only on a pre-supposition that there is a possibility of some incident happening, we cannot declare a law intra vires which is ex-facie ultra vires.”

“Outmoded in content”

Writing the judgment, Mr. Justice Sinha said: “Legislation should not only be assessed on its proposed aims but rather on the implications and the effects. The impugned legislation suffers from incurable fixations of stereotype morality and conception of sexual role. The perspective thus arrived at is outmoded in content and stifling in means.”

“Instead of prohibiting women’s employment in the bars altogether, the State should focus on factoring in ways through which unequal consequences of sex differences can be eliminated. It is [the] State’s duty to ensure circumstances of safety which inspire confidence in women to discharge the duty freely in accordance with the requirements of the profession they choose to follow,” said the Bench.

“It is to be borne in mind,” the Bench added, “that legislation with pronounced ‘protective discrimination’ aims, such as this one, potentially serves as double-edged swords. Strict scrutiny test should be employed while assessing the implications of this variety of legislation.”

Acting on a petition from the Hotel Association of India, the Delhi High Court had struck down the law and the Delhi government had accepted the verdict.

While the Association challenged that portion of the judgment which upheld the upper age limit of 25 fixed for employment of men, Anuj Garg and others assailed the High Court judgment.

The Supreme Court, while upholding the judgment, removed the age restriction imposed on men.

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