The Delhi High Court has recently permitted reopening of spas, adding that the embargo imposed on their operation, in light of the ongoing pandemic, is unjustified.
A bench of Justice Pratibha M. Singh has stated that the court is conscious of prescribing strict safeguards while lifting the embargo, while doing away with the continuation on the embargo on spa's and wellness centre's.
Bench has drawn corollaries with the services provided at salons and spas, noting that though there is difference in the services provided by both, the difference in them 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"
- Delhi High Court
The bench has thus permitted reopening of spas, wellness clinics and similar establishments in Delhi subject to the following conditions:
1. There shall be strict compliance of the conditions specified in the office memorandum of 18th November, 2020 prescribed by the MoHFW in respect of spas, which is extracted above. The 6 feet distance shall be in general maintained between clients and employees. Insofar as the service providers i.e., therapists etc., are concerned, they shall maintain all standards of hygiene, masking etc., as set out below;
2. In addition, considering the nature of services provided in spas, all employees in such establishments shall undergo fortnightly RTPCR tests, especially the therapists who are likely to come in close contact with the clients.
3. All therapists and other employees, as also the visitors, shall be subjected to thermal temperature checks and if anyone shows any symptoms, they would not be permitted entry in the establishment.
4. All service providers shall wear face shields and masks while providing therapy. For treatments which are longer than thirty minutes, a PPE kit should also be worn in addition.
5. Clients should preferably wear masks to the extent possible, considering the nature of services which are availed of. vi. All visitors/clients shall sign a declaration form to the effect that they have not contracted Covid-19 and if they have, they have tested negative. The establishments are permitted to take a written consent form accepting the risks that may be involved for clients/visitors.
6. Tools including clothing, other apparel, towels etc., used for clients, shall be sanitised after each and every treatment. viii. It shall be ensured that hygienic conditions are maintained in the spas and any other safeguards in force for salons shall also be adhered to by the spas.
The bench was hearing a plea by an Association of Wellness Ayurveda and Spa providers in NCT Delhi.
The association approached High Court, aggrieved by the delay in GNCTD & the Ministry of Home Affairs in issuing guidelines for re-opening of spas, sought quashing of order dated August 3, 2020.
The Court, vide order dated 4th December, 2020, had come to a prima facie conclusion that the distinction sought to be made between salons and spas would be discriminatory and had provided an opportunity to GNCTD to file an affidavit.
The affidavit had stated that the only reason given is a longer duration of proximity with the client which is the cause for concern.
While taking note of several developments which had unfurled over the last few months in light of the pandemic, the Court stated that several establishments have already opened and reopening of schools and colleges is also being contemplated.
"While the spread of Covid-19 is the main factor to be considered, it has to be also balanced with the interest of reopening of businesses and establishments to bring back a semblance of normalcy. These establishments provide direct and indirect employment to a large number of employees and their businesses have come to a standstill since the outbreak of the pandemic," bench said.
Thus, in light of the aforementioned conditions and justifications, Court permitted the reopening of the said establishments.
Case Title: Ms. Sukaita & Ors. Vs. Government of NCT of Delhi & Anr. alongwith Association of Wellness Ayurveda and Spa Vs. Government of NCT of Delhi & Ors. | WP(C) 6555/2020