HC stays ban on cross-gender massage parlours in Delhi

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Thursday stayed the city government’s ban on cross-gender massages in private spas and wellness centres functioning in Delhi, observing there is no reasonable connection between the absolute ban and preventing prostitution at the parlours.

The bench of Justice Rekha Palli, while hearing a batch of pleas filed by spa centres and therapists challenging the part of the Delhi government’s policy directing municipal corporations to ban cross-gender massage, said prima facie, it appeared that people who were affected by the decision were not given due consideration.

This is despite the extensive discussions and consultations with stakeholders involved in the profession, the court said, adding, therefore, the operation of a part of the Delhi government’s guidelines and policy in this regard has to be stayed.

However, the court raised concerns on the submission that there are nearly 5,000 illegal spas operating in the national capital and only around 400 spas have licences.

The court also directed the three municipal corporations and Delhi police to carry out an inspection of their respective area within one week and to take steps of sealing the illegal spas in the city and asked them to submit their reports before the Court by the next hearing on January 11.

Senior Advocate Rahul Mehra, who represented the city government, said the policy was meant to protect women and children from the menace of prostitution at the spa centres. The court directed the petitioners to file an affidavit of its members along with the copies of their licenses.

Earlier, the government had submitted that the guidelines are yet to be notified and were not being enforced at present. It also said that no action on the basis of the guidelines will be taken till they are notified in accordance with the law and the clauses are incorporated in the ‘Health Trade Licenses’ issued to the spas under Section 417 of the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957.

However, South and East Municipal Corporations have implemented the new license policy with these restrictions.