Massage parlours and the law: India

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Massage for the Indian goddess
Stone patterned relief of 7th century temple in Pattadakal [Raktapura, northern Karnataka]

This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.



Lady Getting Foot Massage , a sculpture
of 10th Century A.D.
Indian Museum, Kolkata

The history of professional massage in India can be traced back to ancient times, where the practice of massage was considered an important aspect of Ayurvedic medicine and wellness. Ayurvedic massage and other forms of bodywork were developed in India thousands of years ago and have been an integral part of Indian culture and tradition.

According to historical records, massage therapy was used by ancient Indian healers to treat a variety of ailments, from muscle and joint pain to stress and anxiety. In Ayurveda, massage is believed to balance the body's energies and promote healing and wellness.

Over time, the practice of massage therapy in India has evolved, incorporating techniques from different cultures and traditions. Today, there are various forms of massage therapy practiced in India, ranging from traditional Ayurvedic massage to modern wellness and spa treatments.

The concept of modern massage parlours in India emerged in the late 20th century, primarily in urban areas, as an offshoot of the growing spa and wellness industry. Massage parlours began to offer a variety of massage and bodywork treatments, including traditional Indian techniques as well as western-style massage and beauty treatments.

However, the growth of massage parlours in India has also been accompanied by concerns over human trafficking, prompting calls for stricter regulation and monitoring of the industry.


Massage parlours in India are regulated by different state and central laws and policies, and their definitions and regulations may vary from state to state. Additionally, the term "massage parlour" can be used to refer to different types of establishments offering various services, including legitimate massage and wellness services.

The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns and restrictions affected the number and operation of massage parlours in India.

Some resources and information:

• The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in India has published guidelines for the operation of spas and massage parlours, which vary from state to state.

• The Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, issued an advisory in 2017 to all states and union territories, recommending strict regulation and monitoring of massage parlours to prevent illegal activities such as human trafficking.

The Indian Massage Therapy Association (IMTA) is a professional body for massage therapists in India that aims to promote and regulate the massage therapy industry in the country.

Police raids

It is important to note that not all massage parlours engage in illegal activities, and many are legitimate businesses that provide a range of wellness and therapeutic services.

High-profile raids on massage parlours in India.

In 2014, a high-profile prostitution racket was busted in a massage parlour in Delhi's posh South Extension area, which allegedly involved several high-profile individuals, including a former government official.

In 2017, a famous Bollywood actress was arrested in Mumbai for allegedly running a prostitution racket out of a massage parlour that she owned. The actress was later released on bail.

Another link Maha: Prostitution racket busted near Mumbai, 2 arrested/ PTI/ 24 February, 2023

In 2018, a spa in Mumbai was raided, and several women were rescued who were allegedly trafficked into India from Thailand and forced into prostitution in the spa.

In 2019, a spa in Chennai was raided, and several women were rescued who were allegedly trafficked from Thailand and Malaysia and forced into prostitution in the spa.

In September 2019, the Bengaluru Police conducted a raid on a spa and massage parlour and arrested six people, including the owner, for allegedly running a prostitution racket.

In 2020, a spa in Bengaluru was raided, and several women were rescued who were allegedly trafficked from Nepal and forced into prostitution in the spa.

In February 2021, the Mumbai Police conducted a raid on a massage parlour in the city and arrested eight people, including the owner and staff, for allegedly running a prostitution racket.

Court judgements

Delhi, 2014/ Police should not interfere

Cops can't interfere with massage biz: Madras High Court


A Subramani, December 18, 2014

Relax! Massage parlours, spas, beauty parlours, wellness centres, unisex salons and health clubs -call them by any name, but police and other authorities cannot interfere with their functioning without there being a law to either permit or regulate such entities, the Madras high court has ruled. Justice V Ramasubramanian, coming to the rescue of the wellness industry in Chennai, said on Wednesday: “It is quite unfortunate that the very word 'massage' has come to be looked down upon, due to the abuse of these centres by a few individuals. Therefore, it may be necessary for the government to regulate, by law, the industry and provide certain basic parameters.” He then said the authorities shall not, as a matter of routine and without any basis, conduct raids and interfere with the business of such establishments.Massage parlour and spa owners had come to the court complaining that they were being subjected to raids, on a regular basis, by officials of anti-vice squad of Chennai police. They said such raids and the frequent interference by police not only spoiled their business, but also project ed them in poor light. It also amounted to interference with their fundamental right to carry on a lawful business, they said.

The petitions heavily relied on Justice K Chandru's July 2009 judgment that “majoritarian impulses rooted in moralistic tradition cannot impinge upon individual autonomy”. The judge had, however, added a word of caution that there was no prohibition for police to inspect and take appropriate action in cases of criminal activities.

On Wednesday, Justice Ramasubramanian pointed out that the Chennai City Municipal Corporation Act, 1919 had a provision for seeking and granting permission for hairdressing, shaving salons or hair storing and packing, but not for beauty parlours, massage centres and spas.

2019/ ‘Parlours should abide by international laws’

Atul Mathur & Pankuri Yadav, Sep 18, 2019: The Times of India

A day after the south Delhi corporation issued a series of diktats to clamp down on spas and massage parlours, barring cross-gender massages and asking for CCTVS besides other things, it seemed to have developed cold feet. The leader of the house, Kamaljeet Sherawat, said that they didn’t intend to disrupt any legal activity and registered centres that “followed international guidelines” won’t be affected. “Such centres have trained staff and abide by international laws.”

Sources said the U-turn came after the Delhi BJP leadership expressed its unhappiness on the stand taken by the corporation without consulting senior party leaders. While several Delhi functionaries felt the new guidelines may lead to corruption in civic bodies, especially when the assembly elections in the capital are round the corner, some party leaders were apprehensive of the city’s image as a tourist-friendly destination being affected.

A BJP source said that several ‘strarred’ hotels which offer the spa facility to their guests had called up party leaders as well as the south corporation to get clarity on the issue. Confirming that the leadership had asked her about the orders, Sehrawat added that they had given her the goahead to do “whatever it takes to stop immoral activities” in the capital.

The standing committee of the corporation had directed its public health department to ensure that no crossgender massage took places at the city’s spas and massage parlours, CCTV cameras were installed at the entry gate, reception area and corridors and customer identity records were properly maintained. It had asked for a report to be submitted withing a week.

City BJP’s media in-charge Pratyush Kanth said the party did not want to disrupt any legal activity. “We will make sure that no rightful business is put to any kind of inconvenience,” he said. Meanwhile, the chief of the Delhi Commission for Women, Swati Maliwal, has summoned the commissioners of all three corporations for a meeting on September 20 to explain the steps they are taking to close down sex rackets in spas. She had earlier asked them and Delhi Police for a crackdown.

Over the past two weeks, many spas where illegal activities were being carried out were busted and four FIRs have been registered across the city. It was decided at a DCW meeting on Tuesday that the three MCDs would be taking proper steps and changing their licensing mechanism to ensure that such sex rackets do not operate.

Maliwal said that at present a licence for operating a spa is being given by the corporation through an online process without any checks. “It was decided that a separate licence shall now be issued after proper manual checks which shall include an NOC from the police commissioner as is being done by the Tamil Nadu government in Chennai,” she said.

A DCW official said they are seeking a complete ban on cross-gender massages as well as massages in bolted rooms and this should be the primary condition for licensing. “The timings of a spa should be from 10 am to 7 pm only and ID proofs of all customers should be collected,” the official said. Mandatory qualifications for the staff are to be specified.

The corporations will also be directed to examine ways to restrict the existence of several spas in one area, be it a mall, road or colony.

CCTVs hit right to relax: HC/ 2021

Kaushik Kannan, January 5, 2022: The Times of India

MADURAI: Installing CCTV cameras in all spas and massage parlours would infringe on the bodily autonomy of a person as well as his right to relax, said Madras high court, flagging a recent order of another single-judge bench, directing installation of functional CCTV cameras in all spas and massage parlours in Tamil Nadu.

Mere suspicion that immoral activities are taking place in massage centres cannot be reason enough to intrude into an individual's right to relax for it intrinsically is part and parcel of his fundamental right to privacy, said Justice G R Swaminathan.

Observing that a recent order of a judge directing installation CCTV cameras in all spas and massage parlours as being contrary to the Supreme Court's verdict on right to privacy, Justice Swaminathan took a different view and said: "In the first place, unless a legislature mandates by law that CCTV cameras ought to be installed in a certain space, to do so would violate Article 21. In this case, the notification issued by the government contemplates installation of CCTV cameras only at the entry and exit points. It consciously caveats that this would be without prejudice to the individual's privacy. Thus, the Executive, while enacting subordinate legislation, has been conscious of the privacy concerns of the citizens."

The judge further observed that a decision to install a CCTV camera, which has a bearing on a person's privacy requires the most careful of considerations-it requires the government to apply its mind prudently and determine what manner of regulations ought to be put in place for its proper use.

Cross-gender massages

Cross-gender massage banned in S.Delhi/ 2021

Oct 12, 2021: The Times of India

South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) has notified a new licence policy for spa and massage centres that primarily restricts cross-gender massage.

“With the notification of the policy, we are allowed to implement it on the ground with immediate effect,” said a senior official.

An association of ayurvedic and spa centres has filed a petition in Delhi High Court against the government’s guidelines banning cross-gender massage. “Since the court has not stayed the guidelines, we are allowed to notify and implement them with immediate effect. The matter is sub judice,” said the official.

The guidelines state that the facilities for men and women will be in different sections and massage centres could remain open only between 9am and 9pm. Also, police verification of an owner/spa manager will be mandatory before issuing the licence while there will also be a mandatory provision for production of ID cards of all customers.

All centres have been directed to adhere to all norms for grant/renewal of these activities under the jurisdiction of SDMC. “Permission will be granted in areas coming under the category of commercial, local commercial, notified commercial and mixed-land use. New spa/ massage centres will not be allowed in residential areas,” said the official.

Cross-gender massage does not mean sexual activity: HC/ 2021

Dec 4, 2021: The Times of India

New Delhi: Delhi High Court asked Delhi government to refrain from taking any action in connection with a ban on cross-gender massages in the city, observing that such services don’t simply indicate the existence of sexual activity. The remark was made by Justice Rekha Palli who was told by senior counsel Rahul Mehra, appearing for Delhi government, that the policy was framed after due deliberation to stop sexual activities at such centres.

The court, which was hearing a batch of petitions challenging the prohibition on cross-gender massages, was urged by the senior advocate to allow the policy, which has now taken the form of a guideline.

He asked the court to allow the policy to remain in force for some time and highlighted that cross-gender massages are not permitted at several places, including five-star hotels.

However, the judge observed, “Just because it is a cross-gender massage, doesn’t mean that it is sexual activity.” “You ask your people to hold their hands. I’m not saying that illegal activities you shouldn’t stop,” she added.

Delhi government counsel said that the authorities will only act against illegal activities. The court adjourned hearing on the petitions till later this month.

In September, one of the petitioners, Association of Wellness Ayurveda & Spa, had told the court that the ban on cross-gender massages was unconstitutional for being in violation of Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution and assuming prostitution to be only in the “heterosexual domain” is illogical. PTI

2024: Rejected by Delhi HC: Plea to ban cross-gender massages in spas

New Delhi : Delhi High Court has dismissed a petition seeking a direction to the authorities to ban cross-gender massages in spa and massage centres.

A bench of Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet PS Arora noted that a single judge of the high court is already seized of the matter wherein the validity of Guidelines for Operation of Spas/ Massage Centers in Delhi dated Aug 18, 2021, issued by Delhi gov has been challenged.

“Since the single judge is already seized of the controversy, this court is of the view that the present petition cannot be entertained. Accordingly, the present petition is dismissed,” the bench said.

In the dismissed plea, the petitioner had also urged the court to direct the authorities to regularly share the audio and video recordings of spas and massage centres with Delhi Commission for Women.

He claimed massages are being performed inside locked rooms in violation of the guidelines which has led to proliferation of prostitution. PTI

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