The Madras high court has ordered the police to pay Rs 2.5 lakh as compensation to an Indonesian massage therapist, who was detained for 26 days at a vigilance home.
Passing an order on a petition filed by the massage therapist, who was accused of being a prostitute, the court Thursday said, “Police have no legal right to prevent a health spa being operated by anyone even if the therapy is done by persons of one sex to those belonging to the opposite sex.” Noting that a health spa, “where (a) cross-gender person massages is a worldwide phenomenon,” the court said that there is no legal prohibition on the practice.
Justice N Anand Venkatesh said that in words of the Supreme Court, such a practice is not illegal, except in the majoritarian impulses rooted in moralistic tradition which is attempting to impinge upon individual autonomy.
The judge further said that “the petitioner would not have thought even in the remotest of her dreams that she will be confined at a home by the police for 26 days”.
Adding that the petitioner had undergone a horrific experience at the hands of police, the court said, “…I am sure that she will have a very bad impression about this country and its system.”
She claims she was wrongly detained on false charges of indulging in prostitution. She further alleged that she was subjected to inhuman and illegal detention by the police after a raid at a spa where she worked.
The raid was undertaken in October last year by an inspector from the Neelankarai police station. The police officer had detained the petitioner and four of her colleagues. The petitioner alleged she was not informed on what ground she was taken from the spa and kept at the government home for 26 days.
Calling the case a “colourable exercise of power”, the court said, “If this power (exercised by police) goes unchecked, Spa Centre or a Massage Parlour can be run only under mercy of a police officer.”
“For an extraneous consideration, the Police can brand any Spa or a Massage Centre as a brothel, and even if a brothel is being run in the name of a Spa or a Massage Centre, no action will be taken,” the judge said. “There are rotten apples in every business and stringent action must be taken against them.”
Stating that the “the police must get out of this mindset of painting all massage centres and spas as brothels,” the court ordered to pay the compensation to the petitioner through the Consulate of Republic of Indonesia, Chennai, within four weeks and that the compensation be recovered from the salary of the police inspector (who raided the Spa) in equal monthly instalments.