HC asks Delhi govt, Centre to respond to plea alleging inordinate delay in reopening spa centres

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New Delhi, Jul 5 (PTI) The Delhi High Court Monday sought response of the Delhi government and the Centre on a plea alleging inordinate delay in issuing guidelines to reopen spa centres, which were closed in April due to the second wave of COVID-19, while salons, gymnasiums and yoga institutions have been allowed to be open.

Justice Rekha Palli issued notices and sought replies of Delhi government, Ministries of Home Affairs and Health and Family Welfare on the petition filed by owners of two spa centres here.

“It is expected that respondent no. 1 (Delhi government) on the next date of hearing will be ready with the explanation as to why in light of the (earlier) order of this court, spas are not permitted to be open,” the court said and listed the matter for further hearing on July 22.

The judge also observed that it was not for the court to direct when to open spa centres, especially when there are experts to look into it.

“We are not living in ivory towers, we are aware of the situation. Hotels have opened in some states, we know. But I can’t direct them today to open spa centres. I have to hear them also,” the judge said.

When the counsel for the petitioners sought advancement of the date of hearing, the judge said “don’t worry nobody is in a hurry to go to spas”.

To this, the counsel said it was a question of livelihood of poor people employed in these spas and they are facing a tough time.

Advocate Davesh Vashishth, appearing for petitioners Pritam Raj and Manish Upreti, argued that even though the Delhi government has permitted gyms, ayurvedic centres and salons to open in Delhi in June, they have not passed similar orders regarding spa centres.

The petitioners are being aggrieved by the “arbitrary, unlawful, unwarranted and in-ordinate delay in issuing the guidelines for reopening the spa centres, and petitioners are also challenging the guidelines dated June 26, 2021, issued by the respondent no. 1 (Delhi government) through Delhi Disaster Management Authority by virtue of which salons, gymnasiums and yoga institutions have been allowed without application of mind, and is highly discriminatory,” the plea said.

Delhi government additional standing counsel Naushad Ahmed Khan said everyone has seen the COVID-19 situation in March, April and May and that more than four lakh people died and the issue has to be holistically examined by experts of the field.

“Can they do spa by wearing PPE kits? Let them wait for some time and let the situation becomes conducive,” he said.

Due to the second wave of COVID-19, lockdown was imposed and spa centres along with malls, bars, and gyms were closed on April 15 in Delhi.

The plea sought quashing of June 26 order of DDMA qua spa centres and urged the court to direct for reopening spa centres in Delhi and permit their re-functioning in a time bound manner.

The plea sought direction to the authorities to decide the matter relating to reopening and functioning of spas centres in Delhi within a week.

“The guidelines issued by the Delhi government through DDMA have directed reopening of the yoga centres and gyms and specifically prohibited reopening of spas. It is pertinent to mention that these guidelines are without application of mind, and is highly discriminatory as similar services like masseur services through Urban Clap and Salons are operational as on date,” it said.

It said that on January 14, the high court had passed an order directing reopening of spa centres which were closed during the first wave of the pandemic.

It cited the high court’s order which had said that the slight difference in the nature of services and a slightly higher percentage of risk due to the proximity of the client and the service provider can be obviated by prescribing stricter measures and safeguards rather than continuing to keep such establishments closed.

It also cannot be lost sight of that several salons also provide services akin to those provided in spas, the order said.

“Thus, the difference between the services provided in salons and spas is very minimal. Both these services require service providers and service takers to remain in close proximity for a sufficient duration. Thus, while allowing the opening of salons, continuing the embargo on spas would be violative of the rights of these establishments and their employees,” the high court had said.

The plea said the petitioners have no other means to earn for their livelihood and due to closure of their spas, their families and staff are facing acute financial crisis and are on the verge of starvation.

It said the petitioners had given representation to the Delhi government for reopening of spa centres but nothing happened, after which they approached the court.

It said the petitioners are directors of Ayur Thai Spa and Revive Spa in south Delhi respectively having valid licenses to run the spa centres in Delhi. PTI SKV SA

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