C.R.R. 2363 of 2019
Suresh Babu @ Arakkal Arjunan Suresh Babu Vs State Of West Bengal
DATE OF ORDER:
13TH JUNE, 2022
Hon’ble Justice Ajoy Kumar Mukherjee
Petitioner: Suresh Babu @ Arakkal Arjunan Suresh Babu
Respondent: State Of West Bengal
Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act of 1956 (Act)
The Calcutta High Court ruled on Monday that a customer who simply visits a brothel for sexual pleasure cannot be held liable for violations of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act of 1956 (Act). According to Justice Ajoy Kumar Mukherjee, what is punishable under the Act is sexual exploitation or abuse of a person for commercial purposes and to earn a living, as well as keeping or allowing a premises to be used as a brothel.
- In the current case, Suresh Babu, an NRI businessman, was arrested during a police raid on January 4, 2019. He and eight other women and one man were picked up from a local body massage centre.
- The prosecution claimed that the other man arrested was a pimp, while the women were sex workers, one of whom was the owner of the brothel that was operating under the guise of a massage centre.
- The police authorities charged all of them with violating the Act by operating a brothel in the vicinity of a public place and living off the proceeds of prostitution.
- According to the opposing arguments, the Court stated that prostitution is not prohibited under the Act, but it is also true that a "customer" may virtually encourage prostitution and may exploit the sex worker for money, but in the absence of any specific allegation and materials, it is doubtful whether the petitioner, who is according to the prosecution case merely a "customer," can be convicted with the help of materials in C.D. and under the said provision.
ANALYSIS BY THE COURT
- According to the Court, the Court found no evidence in the case diary to suggest that the current petitioner makes a living from prostitution. There is no evidence in the case diary that he was living with the sex worker at the time or that he was habitually in her company at the time.
- There is no evidence that the petitioner exerted control, direction, or influence over her movement in a way that could be construed as aiding or abetting her sex work.
- Given the facts and circumstances of the present case, and taking into account the materials, the petitioner was discovered in the alleged brothel as a customer, and that on the date of occurrence, he only went there after arriving from Dubai to have sex with a sex worker in exchange for money, and in the absence of any evidence that he is living on the earnings of any of the accused/sex workers, or is a habitual visitor of the said place, and thus has exercised control.
- The court concludes that the sections under which the Magistrate took cognizance against the present petitioner are unconstitutional, and that the said cognizance is invalid.
- As a result, the Court threw out the chargesheet and the criminal proceedings against the petitioner.
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