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SC: Sex workers can't use anti-trafficking law to stop eviction from brothels

The Supreme Court today said that the provisions of Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act could not be invoked by the alleged sex workers to resist their eviction from the places being used as brothel that have been directed to be closed by the courts.

"If notice had to be given (to every occupant of brothel) then the implementation of the provision of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act would be impossible", said the apex court's vacation bench comprising Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Justice Amitava Roy as it rejected the plea that before the occupants of a brothel are evicted they have to be given notice of eviction.

The bench said: "Such an interpretation (of Section 18 of the Act) would be absurd, illogical, unrealistic, impractical and would defeat the purpose of law."

The court's observation came as counsel Kamini Jaiswal appearing for two petitioners -- both residing in a brothel in Delhi -- read Section 18 which says that a magistrate will issue a notice as to why a place allegedly used as a brothel or for immoral trafficking should not be attached or vacated.

"Do you think that all the occupants of the place that has been directed to be evicted by the subordinate court as well as the high court should be given a separate notice," the court asked Jaiswal as it junked the plea by the occupants.

As Jaiswal read to the court the provisions of the Act, the bench observed: "Do you suggest that the persons who were convicted under the Act can get any relief from this court?"

The petitioners approached the Supreme Court contesting the 17 May, 2016, Delhi high court order which upheld the sessions court's verdict convicting three alleged sex workers and directing the eviction of people residing at two places used as brothels, and their closure. Thosee in-charge of the two brothels were convicted on charges of trafficking of minor girls under the act.

As the vacation bench rejected all the pleas against the eviction of around 38 people from these two places, Jaiswal referred to the judgements by which the apex court had directed the formulation of schemes for the rehabilitation of sex workers.

Jaiswal told the bench that despite the direction of the Supreme Court, the Delhi government had not taken any step for their rehabilitation and today they are being thrown out.

Delhi Commission for Women Chairperson Swati Maliwal was present in the court during the hearing.

In a statement, the DCW described the apex court's rejection of the petitions as a "positive development".

"This is an extremely positive development as despite many women and minor girls regularly being rescued from the brothels at GB Road and the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act having provisions for closure of brothels involved in trafficking, not even a single brothel has been closed till date," the DCW said.

"It is the view of the Commission that closure of those brothels where women and/or minor girls are trafficked and forced into prostitution is crucial for discouraging trafficking in the area and sending a message to the brothels that trafficking and forcing innocent victims into sex racket will not be allowed," the DCW added.

The commission said one of the two brothels that have been directed to be closed was raided twice in 2015 and four adults and one minor girl were rescued.

"Both cases are presently pending trial. This itself shows that these brothels are continuously engaged in trafficking," the statement said.

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