The Gujarat high court (GHC) has ruled that a criminal case is not maintainable against, “Sex workers engaged in prostitution of their own volition, and not due to any inducement, force or coercion”.
The court was interpreting provisions of Section 370 of the Indian Penal Code which refer to physical or sexual exploitation and slavery which were made more stringent by the Centre after the Nirbhaya gangrape case.
Even a customer of a sex worker is covered under the definition of ‘offender’ in this section as far as prostitution is concerned.
The court was hearing a quashing petition of Vinod Patel, who allegedly visited a brothel in Surat on January 3. He was nabbed along with five others in a police raid. Patel was booked under provisions of Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act as well as under section 370 of the IPC.
Patel moved the HC saying that he was not caught in the company of any sex worker or victim but was waiting for his turn. Hence, he was not an offender indulging in the exploitation of a person in flesh trade against the victim’s will.
After hearing the case, the HC quashed charges under Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act against Patel by stating that they are not maintainable because he was not part of the racket which ran prostitution and earned by exploiting sex workers.