Delhi government counsel stated that the guidelines prohibiting cross-gender massages are in relation to the grant of the health trade licences and were yet to notified as law
The Delhi High Court on September 6 said it will hear on September 20 a challenge to Delhi government’s guidelines banning cross-gender massage services and sought to know if any action has been taken against spas on this basis.
Justice Rekha Palli, who orally observed that the ban was a policy decision of the government, asked the petitioner — Association of Wellness Ayurveda & Spa — to file an additional affidavit listing its members and the action taken by authorities pursuant to the guidelines.
“I am not issuing notice for the present. Please file the document,” said the judge.
Delhi government counsel stated that the guidelines prohibiting cross-gender massages, evolved by a Lieutenant Governor-appointed task force, are in relation to the grant of the health trade licences and were yet to notified as law.
“It [the guidelines] is yet to culminate into a law. It is just an internal document. It cannot be implemented right now,” said the counsel.
The task force was constituted pursuant to a reference received by the Lieutenant-Governor from the Delhi Commission for Women on the working of spas, he added.
“The grievance is that there is a guideline by you [government]. She has the right to challenge if they are being followed,” the court observed.
Counsel for the municipal bodies raised objections with respect to the status of the petitioner which claimed to be an association of individuals having valid licences to run spas here.
Counsel for the petitioner stated that the ban was unconstitutional and in violation of Article 19(1)(g).
“It is irrational, discriminatory and a great setback for the industry,” said the lawyer.
In its petition filed through lawyers Indu Kaul and Mani Kaul, the petitioner has claimed that on the basis of the guidelines, which are not in public domain, two spas have been closed down and others are being “threatened by the officials”.
“Every industry, workplace and businesses have some bad apples but that doesn’t mean that every spa centre across the state is running a prostitution and human trafficking racket,” reads the petition which asserts that spa centres spend a “huge amount on training and skill up-gradation” of their massage therapists and the structure of their functioning cannot be altered after the trade licence has been issued by the authorities.
It is highlighted that there are several places where men and women work together, like gyms and yoga centres, and singling out spas was not reasonable.
Further, it is stated that cross-gender treatment has been “part of the traditional massage practices” and assuming prostitution to be only in the “heterosexual domain” is illogical.
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