The police must get out of the mindset of depicting massage centres and spas as 'brothels', the Madras High Court observed while quashing FIRs registered against their owners.
It also said there were rotten apples in every business and action must be taken against them.
Justice Anand Venkatesh allowed a batch of petitions and criminal original pleas from various spa and massage centres seeking quashing of FIRs and release of girls (who are therapists) lodged in government homes.
In his order recently, the judge also called for the immediate release of staff members.
The police's specialised wing to probe cases under the Immoral Trafficking Act does not seem to resort to the provisions of Section 16 of the Act, the judge said.
By resorting to this section, there would be a lot of authenticity in their action as information would be provided to the magistrate by placing necessary materials and based on his direction, police could take appropriate action against any spa or massage centre, which indulges in prostitution, he said.
"There are rotten apples in every business and stringent action must be taken against them. However, the police must get out of this mindset of painting all the massage centres and spas as brothels," the judge said.
The police should conduct the investigation in a more professional manner in accordance with the provisions of the Act and arrangements should be made for maintaining direct observation on the premises and evidence of such observations should be recorded.
"The Act was conceived to serve the public a social purpose...to suppress immoral traffic in women and girls, to rescue fallen women and girls and to prevent deterioration in public morals," the judge pointed out.
In this case, the victims have filed independent petitions before this court, questioning the action of the police in branding them as prostitutes, the judge said.
"The so called confessions taken from the victims is verbatim identical and the magistrate has proceeded to send them all, in a routine manner, to the Home, even without enquiring the genuineness of the facts projected by police," he said.
It was high time that the magistrates deal with these types of cases with more sensitivity and ensure that genuine spas and massage centres are not labelled as brothels, the court said.
The magistrates must ensure that police have followed the mandatory requirements under Section 15 of the Act, the judge said.
This would go a long way in preventing police from misusing the powers under the Act, against the spas and massage centres, the judge said and quashed the FIRs registered against the owners and ordered immediate release of the staff members.