Sex Workers should not be arrested, treated as accused under Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956: Calcutta HC

Sex Workers should not be arrested, treated as accused under Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956: Calcutta HC

The Calcutta High Court has directed that sex workers exploited for commercial sex should not be arrayed as accused for offences under the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 until and unless cogent materials come on record that she was also involved as a co-conspirator in the crime.

The matter heard by the division bench of Manojit Mandal and Joymalya Bagchi in an anticipatory bail filed by the owner of a health spa where women, including a minor girl were sexually exploited. The court noted three serious irregularities in the proceedings of the aforementioned case when it was initially committed to the Chief Judge, City Sessions Court, Calcutta.

The Court also directed that Investigating officers who are involved in investigating offences under the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 and/or other cognate offences under the Indian Penal Code shall not arrest any sex worker in the course of the investigation.

The matter heard initially by the Chief Judge, City Sessions Court, Calcutta, an adjournment was granted after the Public Prosecutor made a request to that effect on the ground of issuing notice under Section 41A of the Code of Criminal Procedure to the Petitioner.

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The Court went on to berate the Police officer, Public Prosecutor and the Judge for their indifferent and lacklustre manner in which the investigation and case were dealt with.

“The instant case is one of the most glaring example of misuse of police power in this regard. While the Investigating Officer sought it fit to arrest the vulnerable witnesses namely, the sex workers who were forced to carry on prostitution under the guise of health spa, he resorted to an unusually lenient approach towards the owner of the said health spa i.e. the petitioner herein who appears to be the kinpin of the organised crime racket and issued notice under section 41A Cr.P.C. against him.”

The bench expressed its displeasure with regard to the indifference shown by the Chief Judge, City Sessions Court, Calcutta while dealing with the instant case involving a prostitution ring.

“It is expected that a senior judicial officer would show greater sensitivity and concern in such cases. While dealing with offences of this nature it is not expected that a judicial officer shall remain a mute spectator but must play a proactive role to ensure the offender is punished and prompt succour and redress are assured to the hapless victims of crime.”