Noticing that prostitution is not a criminal offence under the law and is not punishable (public solicitation is), the Bombay High Court set aside lower courts’ orders and ordered three women to be released immediately. They were detained in a corrective home for almost a year.
Following a raid at Malad guest house last year, the three women — where the youngest aged 20 — were ‘rescued’ as ‘victims.’ Their alleged pimp was arrested and also booked under provisions of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act.
Justice Prithviraj Chavan in his order on Thursday said, “What is punishable under the Act is sexual exploitation or abuse of a person for commercial purpose and to earn the bread, except where a person is carrying prostitution in a public place or is found soliciting or seducing another person.”
The Bombay High Court said that the three women were adults and are entitled to their fundamental right to move freely and choose their own vocation. HC even criticised the action of the lower courts which are a Mazgaon magistrate and the Dindoshi sessions court, for not even considering the consent of the so-called ‘victims’ before ordering their detention in the corrective home. According to the HC, even the magistrate appeared to have been ‘swayed by the fact that the petitioners belong to a particular caste.’
Through their advocate Ashok Saraogi, the women had challenged the lower court orders of October and November 2019. The High Court even quashed them as being “ban in law.”
Bombay HC also discovered several “glaring discrepancies” in the raid report including the fact that the magistrate failed in inquiring whether the alleged pimp was just procuring women or was running a brothel.
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