Legal Status of Spa In India

Law
10-Apr-2024
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Yes, Spa Massage Centers are legal in India. The spa and oil massage are regarded as body-fitness and detoxifying techniques connected to the traditional insight of Ayurveda. Therefore, offering services like massage and spa treatments is quite useful.

However, depending on the state or local jurisdiction, they have to follow different rules and licensing requirements. These rules usually include things like safety procedures, hygiene requirements, therapist licenses, and adherence to regional business and health legislation.

Even though it's okay to run a spa, spa owners need to follow all the rules and laws to keep their place safe and legal. If a massage at the spa happens in a place that's not regulated, by someone not trained and includes sexual stuff, it could be against the law and lead to serious trouble like being arrested for prostitution or human trafficking.

Controversies surrounding spa massage parlors in India

In India, controversies about spa massage parlors have mostly come from worries about illicit operations including prostitution, human trafficking, and unlawful services being carried out under the cover of reputable spa establishments. Numerous incidents involving the discovery of illegal activity in massage parlors have been documented; these have resulted in police raids and legal actions.

Here are some big police operations that happened at massage places in India:

  1. In 2014, the police found out about a sex business at a massage parlor in Delhi's fancy South Extension area. Important people, even a former government worker, were involved.

  2. In 2017, a famous Bollywood actress got arrested in Mumbai. They said she was running a sex business from her massage parlor. She got out on bail later.

  3. In 2018, the police raided a spa in Mumbai. They saved some women who were brought from Thailand and made to do sex work.

  4. In 2019, the police did a similar raid in Chennai. They rescued women brought from Thailand and Malaysia.

  5. In September 2019, the Bengaluru Police went to a spa. They arrested six people, including the owner, for making a sex business.

  6. In 2020, they raided a spa in Bengaluru. They rescued women brought from Nepal and made to do sex work.

  7. In February 2021, the Mumbai Police went to a massage place. They arrested eight people, like the owner and workers, for running a sex business.

The perception of how society views spa services and the stigma attached to them brings to light more general problems with cultural norms and attitudes toward wellness activities. To protect legality, ethics, and safety standards, resolving these disputes asks for an all-encompassing strategy requiring cooperation between law enforcement organizations, regulatory entities, and spa industry stakeholders.

Rules and Regulations for Spa in India

As controversies related to spas often arise in India, the government of India regulates strict rules and guidelines regarding spa massage centers.

In India, massage parlors are subject to various state laws and rules, with variations in their definitions and regulations throughout different states. To ensure compliance and the efficient functioning of their business, spa owners must know the unique rules and regulations of their area and industry.

In 2021, the Delhi Government prescribed some rules and guidelines for the issue of Health trade Licenses and the operation of spa massage centers. Some of them are;

  • Sexual activity within the premises of the Spa/Massage center is strictly prohibited.

  • Cross-gender massage is not permitted; only male masseurs for male clients and female masseurs for female clients are allowed.

  • Separate sections for male and female Spa centers must be marked with distinct entries and no connection between them.

  • Spa/Massage center services must not be conducted behind locked doors, and self-closing doors without latches or bolts are required.

  • External doors of the establishment must remain open during operating hours.

  • Customers must provide an ID card; their contact details with phone numbers and ID proof must be recorded in a register.

  • Spa/Massage centers can operate only from 9 am to 9 pm.

  • Adequate lighting must be provided in each room or area.

  • There has to be a separate bathroom and toilet area for men and women with adequate drainage.

  • There has to be a separate changing area for men and women.

  • The property cannot be connected to any residential area or utilized for residential purposes.

  • Cleaning and housekeeping personnel must be hired to do routine cleanings of the premises.

  • Every masseuse/masseuse needs to be certified in occupational therapy, physiotherapy, or acupressure.

  • All employee information, including that of cleaning personnel, needs to be kept up to date in a register.

  • When working, all workers are required to wear their employer-issued ID cards.

  • Workers need to be at least eighteen years old.

  • Before receiving a Health Trade License for the Spa/Massage establishment, the Owner/Manager must undergo police verification.

  • The Spa/Massage center must not have any pending criminal cases or involvement in criminal activities related to immoral trafficking or sexual offenses.

  • Compliance with all applicable laws, including the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, is mandatory.

  • License details, including the name, license number, and working hours, must be displayed prominently within the premises.

  • Display boards in English and Hindi must contain site plans, bed numbers, employee details, helpline numbers, and a declaration against prostitution activities.

  • CCTV cameras with recording facilities must be installed at entrances, receptions, and common areas, with recordings retained for three months.

  • Internal complaint committees for sexual harassment prevention must be established where more than 10 employees work.

  • COVID-19 protocols must be followed as per government guidelines and court directions.

An undertaking/declaration must be submitted along with the license application, affirming compliance with all conditions.

Some regulations related to inspection and enforcement are as follows:

  • Health trade licenses will only be issued after premises inspection.

  • Health officials, police officers, and other authorities have the right to inspect premises and records to verify compliance.

  • Violations will result in penal action as per applicable laws.

  • Police will take action in case of criminal activities by the Spa/Massage center.

Latest Court Judgments on Spas in India 

As there are so many rules and regulations in practice, there are so many complaints that arise for violating the rules in some places. Here we see some of the latest court Judgments on spas in India:

Case 1:

Petition:

Saurabh Kumar, director of Somara Wellness Private Limited, filed a writ petition before the Telangana High Court seeking relief from the frequent interference by the police in the operation of their spa centers in Hyderabad. The petition contends that the police actions are both illegal and arbitrary, disrupting the company's business activities and demanding the closure of the spa centers without following due legal procedures.

Judgment:

Justice CV Bhaskar Reddy of the Telangana High Court, upon hearing the petition, directed the police not to interfere with the operation of Somara Wellness Private Limited's spa centers. This decision aligns with previous judgments related to similar writ petitions filed by other spa centers. The court allowed the petitioners to continue operating their massage centers under specific conditions, including maintaining customer registers with verifiable contact information and ensuring that police officers could periodically verify these records. Additionally, the court directed the petitioners not to keep the main doors closed during working hours to prevent any immoral activities while providing whole-body massages.

Case 2:

Petition:

The petitioner, Payel Biswas, who runs the 'Queen Ayurvedic Cross Spa Centre' in Tiruchirappalli district, Tamil Nadu, asks the court to give permission and a no objection certificate to operate the spa without any problems. They argue that putting CCTV cameras in the spa violates people's basic privacy rights. This plea is made in response to a government directive, citing a judgment by Justice S M Subramaniam, which ordered the installation of CCTV cameras in all spas across the state to prevent illegal activities.

Judgment:

In response to the petition, Justice G R Swaminathan of the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court observes that installing CCTV cameras in spas violates individuals' fundamental bodily privacy. He says it's important to control your body to keep your privacy. The Constitution's Article 21 mentioned this. He highlights the 2017 K S Puttaswamy v. Union of India court case, in which the Supreme Court opinion was important. Also, he says the government should think carefully before deciding on privacy things, like putting up CCTV cameras.