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CCTV Cams at Spas, Therapy Centres - Privacy vs transparency: Debate rages
Conflicting orders by two separate single-judge benches on video surveillance at spas and massage centres could lead to arbitrary action by the police, given that both the rulings are binding and open to subjective interpretation.
On December 20, 2021, Justice SM Subramaniam had passed an order in GP Girija Vs Tamil Nadu Police case directing the police and local administration to ensure all the spas and therapy centres are installed with CCTVs which must be functional in all circumstances.
The judge held that the direction is to make spa, massage and therapy centres function transparently as well as to prevent illegal activities.
However, in the case of Payel Biswas Vs Tamil Nadu police, the Madras High Court’s Madurai bench passed a different verdict that the installation of CCTV cameras are against Article 21 of the Constitution as it infringes the rights and freedom of the person.
Justice GR Swaminathan who passed the judgment also pointed out the directions of the nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court in the KS Puttaswamy Vs Union of India case.
Certainly, the judge quoted the concluding point of Justice Chandrachud in the case that while the legitimate expectation of privacy may vary from the intimate zone to the private zone and from the private to the public arena, it is important to underscore that privacy is not lost or surrendered merely because the individual is in a public place.
At this juncture, several spa-goers and spa owners are in confusion on this matter. Speaking on the issue, Madras High Court Advocate M Devarajan said there is no legal framework on this subject to say whether or not the CCTV cameras could be installed in spas, therapy centres.
“The decision of installing the CCTVs in spas and therapy centres may vary from one person to another. It purely depends upon the vision of a person who sees the thing. Whatever may the case be, setting a camera inside a public place is definitely an infringement to the right of a person under Article 21,” he told DT Next.
We have also heard about illegal activities in public restrooms where we could not monitor the movements, the advocate added. “If something is going illegal, severe action shall be taken against the violators. However, the prejudice against the spas, therapy centres should not be the cause for imposing restrictions,” Devarajan noted.
According to senior counsel Jyothi Lakshmi, the necessity to install the CCTV facilities arises when unethical activities are increasing in the name of spas and massage centres.
“Though it is a violation of Article 21 to install the CCTVs in a private space of a public spot, it becomes essential for regulating the spas and massage centres,” she told DT Next.