Stressing the need for instilling confidence among foreigners that a strong judicial system exists in the country to undo illegalities and deliver justice, the Madras High Court on Wednesday directed the State government to pay a compensation of ₹2.5 lakh to a female Indonesian massage therapist for infringement of her personal liberty and reputation.
Justice N. Anand Venkatesh ordered that the compensation should be paid through the consulate and recovered in equated monthly instalments from the salary of K. Natarajan, Inspector of the Neelankarai police station, for having detained her for 26 days after booking a case against her employer under the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act of 1956.
Lamenting a negative impression among people about spas and massage parlours and the misuse of such an impression by some police personnel for extraneous considerations, the judge agreed with the petitioner’s counsel V.B.R. Menon that a reading of the case diary related to the present case would exhibit clearly that it was a “made up case.”
The judge pointed out that the Indonesian therapist was in India last year on an employment visa after she took up a job with a spa on East Coast Road for an yearly salary of $25,000. She had taken up similar assignments with other spas in the previous years and had paid taxes and filed Income Tax returns during her employment period.
However, on October 1, the local police raided the spa and detained all four women therapists including herself in a private women’s home for 26 days on the basis of detention orders obtained from a judicial magistrate at Alandur. She could return to her country only on November 1 after her father flew down and rescued her through the Indonesian Embassy.
The police had not even followed the mandatory procedure of informing the embassy concerned while detaining a foreigner. In the present petition filed through her power of attorney, she also accused the police of not returning her educational certificates, jewellery and cash that were taken away at the time of her detention.
Coming down hard on the Inspector of Police for assuming unfettered power without realising that he was bound by law, Mr. Justice Venkatesh said: “The more the power, the more must be the restraint in using the power. If the police is permitted to exercise their powers in this manner, it is possible to brand any spa or massage parlour as a brothel.”
Delving deep into the history of massage as a therapeutic agent, the judge pointed out that the contentious issue between spa owners and law enforcers appeared to be the use of services of male therapists for women patrons and female therapists for men, which gave rise to doubts of such spas being used for immoral activities.
Rubbishing such preconceived notions, the judge said: “Banning cross gender massaging will not guarantee stopping of illegal activity with the gay and lesbian community on the rise. Sexual favours are no longer a heterosexual domain. Hence, these may continue even in a same gender scenario.”