HC urges Delhi Govt and MCD to file response on details of spa centers

The court had also considered a large number of unlicensed spa centers in the city and ordered the Delhi Municipality and Police to inspect their respective areas and take appropriate action for the closure of those that were operating. without a valid license.

The court had also considered a large number of unlicensed spa centers in the city and ordered the Delhi Municipality and Police to inspect their respective areas and take appropriate action for the closure of those that were operating. without a valid license.

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday requested the Delhi government and the MCD to file responses in view of its previous order regarding the details of spa centers in their jurisdictions.

The high court asked them to state the number of spa centers, how many of them held valid licenses and whether their business practices were legitimate. Judge Yashwant Varma made the order while hearing pleas challenging the ban on transgender massage services in the city, which had previously been suspended by the High Court. “The Delhi Government and the MCD will also file their responses bearing in mind the issues flagged in the April 5 order. List the case on November 21,” the High Court said. It said the interim order of December 16, 2021, suspending the ban on transgender massages, will continue.During the hearing, lawyers for the spa owners claimed in court that they were harassed daily by the police under the pretext of inspecting their premises.

The lawyer claimed that under the guise of conducting the inspection, an extortion racket was organized by the police and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD). Lawyers representing the Delhi government said they were adopting the counter affidavit filed by the state in one of the petitions.

MCD’s attorney argued that now that the three municipal corporations have been unified, he will be filing a consolidated response to the petitions.

In its April 5 order, the High Court had said that although some situation reports were filed by the three municipalities of East, South and North Delhi, there was no disclosure on the total number of spas operating in their respective areas and how many of them have valid permits.

“The status reports fail to further explain whether the spa centers were conducting activities in accordance with the law and not engaging in illegal activities. Such disclosures should be made by responsible corporate officers,” he said. .

While suspending the ban, the High Court had previously said there was no reasonable link between the outright ban and the prevention of prostitution in spas and observed that a sudden ban would harm those employed in the spa industry and felt that the “cure” should be proportionate to the problem.

The court said the defendant authorities should have taken steps to regulate spa centers to deter such illegal activities, and it appears on the face of it that the policy prohibiting transgender massages was developed without any consultation with the professionals involved. in spa services.

“…simply because the police and businesses have been unable to take effective action to ensure that no illegal spas are allowed in the city and that licensees do not engage in no illegal activity, this cannot be a reason (to impose a ban), “said the court.

The court had also considered a large number of unlicensed spa centers in the city and ordered the Delhi Municipality and Police to inspect their respective areas and take appropriate action for the closure of those that were operating. without a valid license.

“The fact that emerges from the record is that there are 5,000 spas in the city even though, according to the three companies, only about 400 spas have received licenses. There is absolutely no justification on the part of the police or society not to take appropriate action against illegally operated spas…(or) to suspend the license of spas against which FIRs have been registered or those which openly engage in illegal activities,” he added.

The court had issued an opinion on petitions by owners of certain spa centers and therapists challenging the Delhi government’s policy directive banning transgender massages and the consequent guidelines adopted by city corporations.

The Delhi government had defended the policy on the grounds that the ban was introduced after deliberation and was intended to protect women and children from the threat of prostitution in spa resorts. Lawyers for DCW and the municipality had also defended the ban.

The lawyer for one of the claimants had argued that the fundamental right of spa owners cannot be taken away by decree and that all spa centers “cannot be painted with the same brush”.

In September last year, one of the petitioners, the Association of Wellness Ayurveda & Spa, told the court that the ban on transgender massages was unconstitutional as it violated Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution and presuming that prostitution was to be solely in the heterosexual realm is illogical.

The petitioner had claimed that every industry has “bad apples, but that doesn’t mean every spa resort in the state is running a racket of prostitution and human trafficking.”