Spa worker fights cops for dignity, approaches SC

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NEW DELHI: An Indonesian spa therapist working in Chennai, who was granted a compensation of Rs 2.5 lakh by the Madras high court for her illegal detention in a women’s home following a police raid at the spa, has now moved the Supreme Court challenging a subsequent HC order providing relief to the police inspector involved in the action.
The HC had ordered TN government to recover the compensation amount from the salary of the inspector in monthly instalments. Later, a division bench stayed the deductions.
For years, spa owners, female therapists and masseuses have worked under the constant fear of raids by police, who routinely invoke the Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Children Act to send female workers to women’s homes while accusing spas of indulging in flesh trade.
A similar raid was conducted by a Chennai police team led by inspector K Natarajan in October 2018 in which several female workers at a spa were detained. One of them was a therapist from Indonesia, Kadek Dwi Ani Rasmini, who had a valid degree, work visa and was an income tax payee in India. She was forced to spend 26 days in a women's home before being released on the intervention of the Indonesian embassy. And she has not taken this ignominy and harassment lying down.
Rasmini moved the Madras high court questioning the ulterior motive behind the raid and alleged that it was because of the inspector wreaking vengeance for his constant run-ins with the spa owner. She alleged that her detention was without any reason and evidence. She demanded Rs 10 lakh as compensation for the illegal detention, loss of personal reputation, harassment and mental agony.
A single judge bench of the Madras HC gave a stinging order, termed the police action illegal and attempted to restore the dignity at workplace for female workers at spas. It ordered the Tamil Nadu government to pay Rasmini a compensation of Rs 2.5 lakh through the Indonesian embassy and directed the state to recover the amount from the police inspector in equal instalments.
Justice Anand Venkatesh said, “The petitioner came into this country with the fond hope that her services will be used as a massage therapist and that she will be adequately compensated. She could not have thought even in the remotest of her dreams that she would be confined at a home by the police for 26 days. The petitioner has undergone a horrific experience at the hands of the first respondent (Natarajan), and I am sure that she will have a very bad impression about this country and its system."
After 286 days of the judgment, that is much after the 90-day limitation period, the police inspector filed an appeal against the judgment so far as it directed recovery of Rs 2.5 lakh, the compensation awarded to Rasmini, from his salary. He did not challenge quashing of the criminal case registered after the raid on the spa. A division bench agreed to condone the huge delay, entertained the appeal and ordered a stay on further deduction of equated monthly instalments from the inspector’s salary.
Rasmini, however, was not ready to give up. She moved the Supreme Court, challenging the division bench’s decision to entertain the inspector’s appeal despite the inexplicable and enormous delay. A bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar, B R Gavai and Krishna Murari issued notice to the police inspector on Friday and asked him to respond within three weeks.
What the single judge bench of the HC said rings a bell about the general attitude of police towards spas. “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. A health spa providing cross-gender massages is a worldwide phenomenon and there is no legal prohibition except, to borrow the wordings of the Supreme Court, the majoritarian impulses rooted in moralistic tradition which is attempting to impinge upon individual autonomy,” he said.


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