Madras HC | Relief to Indonesian spa therapist booked under Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act; Police rebuked for colourable exercise of power

“Urgent need to get out of the preconditioned mind of the majority who unfortunately see Spas and Massage Centres as brothel houses.”

Madras High Court: The Bench of N. Anand Venkatesh, J. allowed a petition filed by a spa therapist against her illegal confinement and quashed cases filed against owners of massage and spa centres in Tamil Nadu.

The instant petition arises out of an FIR registered by respondent under Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956, against the manager of Willows Spa citing petitioner – an Indonesian spa therapist working therein – as a victim of prostitution. Pursuant to a police raid at the said spa, petitioner along with four other spa therapists was taken into custody and confined in a government vigilance home for nearly 26 days without even being informed of the grounds of her confinement. Aggrieved thereby, she filed the present petition seeking compensation for violation of her personal liberty and loss of personal reputation.

The Court opined that banning of cross-gender massaging would not guarantee stoppage of illegal activity and urged to change pre-conceived notions about massage and spa centres. It observed that cross-gender massages is a worldwide phenomenon and held that the police had no legal right to prevent a health spa being operated by anyone even if therapy is done to persons of one sex by those belonging to the opposite sex.

It was noted that there was no proof of even a single incident of prostitution or activities of a prostitute in Willows Spa. No respectable inhabitant of the locality was called as a witness in the said case. The Indonesian Consulate was not informed about the incident and the same was in contravention of Office Memorandum No. 14051/14/2011-F.VI of the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The Court opined that the entire action of the police was illegal and a case of colourable exercise of power. If this power goes unchecked, spa centre or a massage parlour could be run only at the mercy of a police officer. For an extraneous consideration, the police can brand any spa as a brothel and even if a brothel is being run in the name of a spa, no action would be taken. Such a situation is neither good for the society nor the police force.

It was observed that every foreign national who comes to India should be treated like an ambassador of the concerned country as they carry with them their opinions and impressions about our country. Petitioner had come to India on a valid employment permit and an offered salary of $ 25,000 per year. She had hardly worked for three months when she suffered a horrific experience of being confined illegally in a government home for 26 days.

In view of the above, respondent’s FIR was quashed and petitioner was granted Rs 2,50,000 as compensation. [Kadek Dwi Ani Rasmini v. K. Natarajan, 2019 SCC OnLine Mad 23, decided on 02-01-2019]

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