Judge flays Madras HC order on CCTV cameras in spas

Justice GR Swaminathan says installing the equipment would violate the right to privacy and go against SC verdict

Published: 05th January 2022 04:56 AM  |   Last Updated: 05th January 2022 04:56 AM   |  A+A-

CCTV Camera

CCTV Camera (Representational Image | EPS)

Express News Service

MADURAI: Observing that fundamental rights cannot be curtailed by any judicial measure, Justice GR Swaminathan of the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court said the recent order in a case directing for installation of CCTV cameras in spas and massage and therapy centres, runs counter to the Supreme Court’s verdict in a 2017 case and affected the right to privacy of individuals.

Justice Swaminathan made the observation on Tuesday in a petition filed by Payel Biswas, seeking a direction to the Tiruchy police to issue a ‘No Objection Certificate’ for his spa.

The judge noted that Justice SM Subramaniam, in a similar matter last month, had ordered installation of CCTV cameras in spas and other such centres. But the said order runs counter to the law laid down by a nine-judge bench judgment passed by the Supreme Court in KS Puttaswamy case, Justice Swaminathan opined.“The Supreme Court held that privacy, as guaranteed in Article 21 of the Constitution, takes different forms like right to bodily autonomy, right to informational privacy and a right to privacy of choice. The installation of CCTV equipment inside premises such as a spa would unquestionably infract upon a person’s bodily autonomy,” he said.

Suspicion about immoral activities 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 or her fundamental right to privacy, the judge further added. Though Justice Swaminathan admitted that no right, including a fundamental right can be absolute, he opined that the restrictions can be put in place only by the legislature or the executive. 

“The sweep and the reach of the fundamental rights cannot be curtailed by any judicial measure,” he said.
While Justice Subramaniam had held that secluded or closed rooms should be avoided in spas and massage centres to prevent illegal activities, Justice Swaminathan reasoned that closed rooms are unavoidable in such centres as customers would want to bathe after the massage sessions. 

He also referred to Chennai Municipal Corporation’s 2019 notification which contemplated that spa or massage parlours should have partitions or rooms, and said, “When the notification issued by the appropriate authority is holding the field, it may not be open to the court to supplement the same.” He directed the Tiruchy police to consider Biswas’ representation and take a decision in a month.

Justice Swaminathan also said while privacy may generally be viewed as an individual right, the time has come to look beyond. He referred to George Mason University Professor Priscilla M Regan’s work ‘Legislating Privacy’ wherein she conceptualises privacy as a value and as a goal of public policy.


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