KOLKATA: A brothel customer cannot be prosecuted under the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956, unless proven that he is financially exploiting the sex worker, the Calcutta high court has ordered.
The HC, while quashing a chargesheet against an NRI businessman, said based on the materials produced in court, it appeared that the NRI had flown into Kolkata from Dubai and had chosen to have sex for money. The HC said the probe didn’t suggest that he had financially exploited the sex worker, even frequented the place or habitually lived with the sex worker. The HC said unless this was proven, it would be impossible to prove he had aided and abetted the offence.
The case referred to January 2019, when the NRI businessman claimed he had reached Kolkata from Dubai. He claimed he had a backache and found a massage parlour from the Internet and reached there on CR Avenue. When the masseur attended to him, he claimed, police raided the place and arrested everyone, including him. He was later granted an interim bail.
Police said the businessman was caught red-handed in a brothel. In the raid, 10 people, including eight women, were arrested. The businessman, they said, was found in a compromising position with a sex worker. Justice Ajoy Kumar Mukherjee on Monday said, “What is punishable under the Act is sexual exploitation or abuse of a person for commercial purpose and to earn the bread thereby keeping or allowing premises as brothel and also when a person is carrying on prostitution in a public place or when a person is found soliciting or seducing another person as defined under the Act. I find no material in the case diary that can suggest that the present petitioner is living on earning of the prostitution.”
The HC also said that “prostitution per se is not prohibited under the Act but it is also equally true that a “customer” may virtually encourage prostitution and may exploit the sex worker for money,” but this must be proven during the probe. In this case, the HC said, even the sex worker with whom the businessman was found has stated to police that there was no coercion.





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