The Bombay High Court has acquitted six persons of offences under the Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act (PITA) and abettment of rape. The court ruled that subjecting women to prostitution cannot be equated with the commission of rape, as there was nothing on record to show that sexual intercourse by the victims was without their consent. The conviction under various sections of PITA was also set aside due to a fatal procedural lapse by the police.
Raid at Grant Road
In 2008, the police at Pavwala Chowky, Grant Road, arrested 40 year-old Jaya Rama Gauda from Kamathipura, 44 year-old Sangli resident Mumtaz Dastagir Mulla and 30 year-old Seema Nirmal Roy, all housewives, for allegedly running a brothel. Three minor girls were rescued in the raid, who claimed Gauda had purchased them.
The other accused persons, rickshaw driver Dinesh Ghemndi, Mohammed Jallaluddin Mandal and Kalu Kamal Shaikh were found to be complicit in the offence and also arrested. All six of them were tried and pled that they had been falsely implicated.
Trial and conviction
During the trial, one of the minor girls, Geeta Rane (name changed) alleged that she had been sold by Ghemndi to Gauda. When she tried to run away, she was captured, beaten and forced back into prostitution. Another victim, Nazia Khan (name changed), said she knew Mandal and Shaikh, but was sold to Gauda by Ghemndi.
As per the testimony of the third girl, Reena Shah (name changed), Roy’s husband brought her to Roy’s room and left with Rs 35,000 cash. In their respective cross-examinations, all three girls admitted to being about 20 years of age at the time of the raid, though medical tests proved otherwise in the case of at least two of the girls.
While the trial court acquitted Ghemndi, Mandal and Shaikh of running a brothel and prostitution, it convicted the three women. All six of them were convicted of abettment of rape. ‘Convictions unwarranted, unsustainable’ Justice RC Chavan of the High Court in his December 11 judgment observed that a conviction for rape was “unwarranted”.
He added, “Subjecting the victims to prostitution cannot be equated to commission of rape or abettment to commit rape. There is nothing to show that any incident of sexual intercourse with the victims was either against their will or without their consent.” Chavan also noted that there was no evidence against either Mandal or Shaikh.
Finally, the convictions under PITA were unsustainable, though the statements of the victims clearly pointed to an offence. The PITA act requires investigations to be conducted by a special police officer, which was not the case in this investigation. Therefore, the entire trial was vitiated, and all the accused were acquitted by the court.
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