Ori HC | “Law makers have missed opportunity to prescribe stringent punishment; a yawning gap between law and its enforcement”: Court while feeling constrained to grant bail to accused involved in sex trafficking

“No nation, with all its boasts, and all its hopes, can ever morally be clean till all its women are really free – free to live without sale of their young flesh to lascivious wealth or commercializing their luscious figures….”

— Justice V.R. Krishna

Orissa High Court: S.K. Panigrahi, J., while addressing a petition observed that,

“…crime of trafficking girls is dehumanizing as well as utterly shameful to our civilized society.”

Accused in the present matter is allegedly notorious for his aplomb in identifying girls and capitalising their distress condition but caught red-handed by police.

Factual Matrix

Inspector of Police, Alok Kumar Jena had received information that Ibrahim Khan and Rukhsar Begaum from District were engaged in regularly trafficking girls from Kolkata and other places and further engage them in sexual exploitation for commercial purposes from which the two persons mentioned derived income.

These girls were forcefully sent to various hotels and lodges where they were subjected to sexual abuse and exploitation.

Raid was conducted on receiving the information.

During the examination of the victims, it was revealed by them that Ibrahim Khan and Ruksar Begum and certain other unknown persons have procured them from Kolkata and on some false pretext of employment in beauty parlors forced them into sexual slavery and prostitution.

Petitioner was forcibly sending them to various hotels and lodges and were arranging customers for such illegal act.

Petitioner herein was acting in concert with aforesaid principal accused by making wide publicity among the prospective customers to be in touch with them for such act.

Ibrahim Khan and Ruksar Begum had confessed that they were running a prostitution racket by forcefully exploiting victims.

Further victims on being rescued were kept in shelter home and the accused persons were apprehended under Section 4 and 5 of the Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act read with Sections 370(3), 467, 471 & 120B/34 of Penal Code, 1860. An FIR was filed against the said accused persons.

Court

Bench while perusing the above, stated that girls statement reveals that the accused persons were threatening them to face starvation in case they try to flee from the said house.

Prima facie, it appears to be a complete racket run by the principal accused and his accomplice though the complete picture will emerge from a thorough trial.

Court observed that, despite constitutional dictums and legal provisions, the humanity is still struggling to combat human trafficking.

Bench also added that unfortunately, despite the protection afforded by the Constitution, the stringent laws and large number of treaties and conventions, commercial sexual exploitation with its concomitant human rights abuse is expanding multi-fold.

Such exploitation is now not confined to conventional brothels, but is spreading everywhere including residential areas, hotels, clubs etc. as apparent in the present case.

High Courts of several states have not only recognized the menace of human trafficking but also taken up cases for strengthening the Institutional Machinery and various statutory agencies mandated by various laws.

Heinous Crime

Even if the accused had a limited role in selling the victims or in the prostitution business, no leniency can be shown to him inasmuch as he played a major role in the racket to push the helpless and innocent girls into prostitution.

Supreme Court in its decision of Vishal Jeet v. UOI, (1990) 3 SCC 318, while discussing the evils of prostitution, observed the need for the courts and law enforcement agencies to take stringent action to curb the menace.

Sex Rackets

Kingpins behind the sex rackets exert considerable influence in the area and are bound to intimidate the victims.

Nature of crime is such that grant of bail will only embolden such hardened criminals, who keep evading the law and punishment, to perpetuate such heinous crimes.

Collective Morality of society and markedly skewed legislations

Complex and troubling issue as emerged in the instant case demonstrates a conflict between collective morality of the society and markedly skewed legislations which mismatches the culpability of the participants in questions and the recipient of the services.

There seems to be an all-pervasive puritan, moral, anti-prostitution posture of the Government, but in practice, there is a yawning gap between the law and its enforcement which results in abysmally low conviction rates.

The accused in present case have already been granted bail. Thus the court is constrained to grant bail to the accused in the instant case on the grounds of parity alone.

Hence, in view of the above, present bail application was disposed of. [Panchanan Padhi v. State of Odisha, 2020 SCC OnLine Ori 492 , decided on 29-06-2020]

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