Jeet Vs. Union of India & Ors  INSC 176
(2 May 1990)
S.R. (J) Pandian, S.R. (J) Reddy, K. Jayachandra (J)
1990 AIR 1412 1990 SCR (2) 861 1990 SCC (3) 318 JT 1990 (2) 354 1990 SCALE
of India, 1950.: Article 32--Public inter- est litigation --Writ petition
seeking directions for in- quiry against forced prostitution Devadasi and Jogin
tradi- tions and rehabilitation of the victims--Held prostitution is not only
social but also a socio-economic problem-Eradi- cating measures should be
preventive rather than punitive--A roving inquiry by C.B.I. neither practicable
nor desirable--However, directions issued by Supreme Court for setting up of
Advisory Committees to evolve measures for care, protection and rehabilitation
of victims--Law enforc- ing authorities to take appropriate and speedy action
under existing law for eradicating the malady of prostitution.
23--'Right against exploitation'--'Traffic in Human beings'--Expression is very
wide including prohibition of traffic in women for immoral or other purposes.
39(e)(f)--State has an Obligation to safeguard the interest and welfare of the
children and girls of the Country.
Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956: Object of the Act-What is--Indian Penal
Code, 1860: Sections 366-A, 366-B, 372 and 373. The Juvenile Justice Act, 1986:
Sections 13 and 15.
petitioner filed a writ petition in this Court under Article 32 of the
Constitution of India by way of public interest litigation seeking directions
for (i) inquiry against police officials under whose jurisdiction the malady of
forced prostitution, Devdasi system and Jogin traditions were flourishing and
(ii) for rehabilitiation of the victims of this malady.
the writ petition, this Court.
1. The malady of prostitution is not only a social but also a socio economic
problem and, therefore, the meas- ures to be taken in that regard should be
more preventive rather than punitive. This cannot be 862 eradicated either by
banishing, branding, scourging or inflicting severe punishment on the helpless
and hapless victims most of whom are unwilling participants, and invol- untary
victims of compelled circumstances and who, finding no way to escape, are
weeping or wailing throughout. This devastating malady can be suppressed and
eradicated only if the law enforcing authorities in that regard take very
severe and speedy action against all the erring persons such as pimps, brokers
and brothel keepers. [867D; E-G]
of the stringent and rehabilitative provi- sions of law contained in
Constitution of India, 1950, the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956, Indian
Penal Code, 1860 and the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986, it cannot be said that the
desired result has been achieved. It cannot be gainsaid that a remarkable
degree of ignorance or callous- ness or culpable indifference is manifested in
uprooting this cancerous growth despite the fact that the day has arrived
imperiously demanding an objective multi-dimensional study and a searching
investigation into the matter relating to the causes and effects of this evil
and requiring the most rational measures to weed out the vices of illicit
Courts also in such cases have to always take a serious view of this matter and
inflict consign punishment on proof of such offences. However, it is neither practica-
ble and possible nor desirable to make a roving enquiry through the C.B.I.
throughout the length and breadth of the country. and no useful purpose will be
served by issuing any such direction. [867G; 867E]
Apart from legal action, both the Central and the State Governments have got an
obligation to safeguard the interest and welfare of the children and girls of
this country. [867H] Lakshmi Kant Pandey v. Union of India,  2 SCC 244
and Guarav Jain v. Union of India & Ors., AIR 1990 S.C. 292, referred to.
the State Governments and the Governments of Union Territories should direct
their concerned law enforc- ing authorities to take appropriate and speedy
action under the existing laws in eradicating child prostitution without giving
room for any complaint of remissness or culpable indifference. They should also
set up separate Advisory Committees for making suggestions for eradication of prosti-
tution, implementation of the social welfare programmes for the care,
protection, treatment, development and rehabilita- tion of the victims, and for
863 amendments of the existing law, or for enactment of any new law for
prevention of sexual exploitation of the children.
Governments should also devise a machinery for ensur- ing proper implementation
of the suggestions of their re- spective committees. [868D-H; 869A-E]
JURISDICTION: Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 421 of 1989.
Article 32 of the Constitution of India).
A.S. Nambiar, R.B. Misra, Ms. A. Subha- shini, T.V.S.N. Chari, Prabir Choudhary,
D. Goburdhan, M.N. Shroff, K.R. Nambiar, Uma Nath Singh, N.N. Johri, V. Krish- namurthy,
V.N. Patil, A.S. Bhasme, P.R. Ramasesh, M. Veerap- pa, R.K. Mehta, R.S. Suri,
B.D. Sharma, D. Bhandari, Amal Dalla, D.K. Sinha, J.R. Das, S.K. Bhattacharya,
S.K. Nandi, Mahabir Singh, I. Makwana, N.K. Sharma, A. Subba Rao, Ms. Kamini Jaiswal,
P.K. Manohar and Mrs. Shanta Vasudevan for the Respondents.
Judgment of the Court was delivered by S. RATNAVEL PANDIAN, J. This writ
petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India at the instance of an Advo-
cate is filed by way of a Public Interest Litigation seeking issuance of
certain directions, directing the Central Bureau of Investigation
institute an enquiry against those police officers under whose jurisdiction Red
Light areas as well Devadasi and Jogin traditions are flourishing and to take
necessary action against such erring police officers and law breakers;
bring all the inmates of the red light areas and also those who are engaged in
'flesh trade' to protective homes of the respective States and to provide them
with proper medical aid, shelter, education and train- ing in various
disciplines of life so as to enable them to choose a more dignified way of life
bring the children of those prostitutes and other children found begging in
streets and also the girls pushed into 'flesh trade' to protective homes and
then to rehabilitate them.
averments made in the writ petition on the basis of which these directions are
prayed for can be summarised thus:
unfortunate teen-aged female children (hereinafter refer- 864 red to as 'the
children') and girls in full bloom are being sold in various parts of the
country, for paltry sum even by their parents finding themselves unable to
maintain their children on account of acute poverty and unbearable miseries and
hoping that their children would be engaged only in household duties or manual labour.
But those who are acting as pimps or brokers in the 'flesh trade' and brothel
keepers who hunt for these teenaged children and young girls to make money
either purchase or kidnap them by deceitful means and unjustly and forcibly
inveigle them into 'flesh trade'. Once these unfortunate victims are taken to
the dens of prosti- tutes and sold to brothel keepers, they are shockingly and
brutally treated and confined in complete seclusion in a tiny claustrophobic
room for several days without food until they succumb to the vicious desires of
the brothel keepers and enter into the unethical and squalid business of prosti-
tution. These victims though unwilling to lead this obnox- ious way of life
have no other way except to surrender themselves retreating into silence and
submitting their bodies to a11 the dirty customers including even sexagenar- ians
with plastic smile.
petitioner has cited certain lurid tales of sex with sickening details alleged
to have been confessed by some children and girls either escaped or rescued
from such abodes of ill-fame. After giving a brief note on Devadasi system and Jogin
tradition, the petitioner states that this system and tradition which are still
prevailing in some parts of the country should be put to an end. The ultimate
plea of the petitioner is that the young children and girls forcibly pushed
into 'flesh trade' should be rescued and rehabilitated. With this petition, the
petitioner has filed 9 affidavits said to have been sworn by 9 girls who claim
to be living in the brothel houses, pleading for rescue and a list of names of
9 girls who are mortally afraid to swear the affidavits. Be it noted that no
counter has been filed by any one of the respondents.
matter is one of great importance warranting a comprehensive and searching
analysis and requiring a human- istic rather than a purely legalistic approach
from differ- ent angles. The questions involved cause considerable anxie- ty to
the Court in reaching a satisfactory solution in eradicating such sexual
exploitation of children. We shall now examine this problem and address
ourselves to the merits of the prayers.
denying the fact that prostitution always remains as a running sore in the body
of civilisation and destroys all moral values. The causes and evil effects of
prostitution maligning the society are so 865 notorious and frightful that none
can gainsay it. This malignity is daily and hourly threatening the community at
large slowly but steadily making its way onwards leaving a track marked with
broken hopes. Therefore, the necessity for appropriate and drastic action to
eradicate this evil has become apparent but its successful consummation
ultimately rests with the public at large.
highly deplorable and heart-rending to note that many poverty stricken children
and girls in the prime of youth are taken to 'flesh market' and forcibly pushed
into the 'flesh trade' which is being carried on in utter viola- tion of all
cannons of morality, decency and dignity of humankind. There cannot be two
opinions--indeed there is none--that this obnoxious and abominable crime
committed with all kinds of unthinkable vulgarity should be eradicated at all
levels by drastic steps.
23 which relates to Fundamental Rights in Part of the Constitution and which
has been put under the caption 'Right against exploitation' prohibits 'traffic
in human beings and begat and other similar forms of labour' and provides that
any contravention of Article 23(1) shall be an offence punishable in accordance
with law. The expres- sion 'traffic in human beings' is evidently a very wide
expression including the prohibition of traffic in women for immoral or other
purposes. Article 35(a)(ii) of the Consti- tution reads that notwithstanding
anything in this Constitu- tion, Parliament shall have, and the legislature of
a State shall not have, power to make laws for prescribing punish- ment for
those acts which are declared to be offences under this part. The power of
legislation, under this article, is given to the Parliament exclusively, for,
otherwise the laws relating to fundamental rights would not have been uniform
throughout the country. The power is specifically denied to the state legislatures.
In implementation of the principles underlying Article 23(1) the Suppression of
Immoral Traffic in Women & Girls Act, 1956 (SITA for short) has been
enacted under Article 35 with the object of inhibiting or abolishing the
immoral traffic in women and girls.
this connection, it is significant to refer Article 39 which relates to
'Directive Principles of State Policy' under Part IV of the Constitution.
Article 39 particularises certain objectives. Clause (f) of Article 39 was
substituted by Forty-Second Amendment Act, 1976. Among the objectives mentioned
under Clauses (e) and (f) of Article 39, we will confine ourselves only to
certain relevant objectives under those two clauses which are sufficient for
the purpose of this case. One 866 of the objectives under clause (e) of Article
39 is that the State should, in particular, direct its policy towards securing
that the tender age of children are not abused. One of the objectives under
clause (f) is that the State should, in particular, direct its policy towards
securing that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and
against moral and material abandonment. These objectives reflect the great
anxiety of the Constitution makers to protect and safeguard the interests and
welfare of the children of our country. The Government of India has also, in
pursuance of these constitutional provisions of clauses (e) and (f) of Article
39, evolved a national policy for the welfare of the children.
will be apposite to make reference to one of the principles, namely, principle
No. (9) formulated by the Declaration of the Rights of the Child adopted by the
Gener- al Assembly of the United Nations on November 20, 1959. The said principle reads thus:
child shall be protected against all forms of neglect, cruelty and
exploitation. He shall not be the subject of traffic, in any form." Before
the adoption of SITA, there were enactments in some of the states for
suppression of immoral traffic, but they were not uniform nor were they found
to be adequately effective. Some states did not have any law on the subject.
the growing danger in society to healthy and decent living with morality, the
world public opinion congregated at New York in a convention for suppression of traffic in persons for exploitation
for immoral purposes. Pursuant to the signing of that convention on May 9,
1950, our Parlia- ment has passed an Act called "Suppression of Immoral Traf-
fic in Women and Girls Act, 1956 which is now changed as "The Immoral
Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956" to which cer- tain drastic amendments are
introduced by the Amendment Acts of 46 of 1978 and 44 of 1986. This Act aims at
suppressing the evils of prostitution in women and girls and achieving a public
purpose viz. to rescue the fallen women and girls and to stamp out the evils of
prostitution and also to provide an opportunity to these fallen victims so that
they could become decent members of the society. Besides the above Act, :here
are various provisions in the Indian Penal Code such as Sections 866-A (dealing
with procuration of minor girl), 366-B (dealing with offence of importation of
girl from foreign country), 372 (dealing with selling of minor for purposes of
prostitution etc. ) and 373 (dealing with 867 the offence of buying minor for
purposes of prostitution etc.). The Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 which provides
for the care, protection, treatment, development and rehabilitaton of neglected
or deliquent juveniles contains a specific provision namely Section 13 which
empowers a police officer or any other person or organisation authorised by the
State Government in this behalf to take charge of any neglected juveniles and
bring them before the Board constituted under this Act which Board under
section 15 has to hold an enquiry and make such orders in relation to the
neglected juveniles as it may deem fit.
of the above stringent and rehabilitative provi- sions of law under various
Acts, it cannot be said that the desired result has been achieved. It cannot be
gainsaid that a remarkable degree of ignorance or callousness or culpable
indifference is manifested in uprooting this cancerous growth despite the fact
that the day has arrived imperiously demanding an objective multi-dimensional
study and a search- ing investigation into the matter relating to the causes
and effects of this evil and requiting most rational measures to weed out the
vices of illicit trafficking. This malady is not only a social but also a
socioeconomic problem and, therefore, the measures to be taken in that regard
should be more preventive rather than punitive.
view, it is neither practicable and possible nor desirable to make a roving
enquiry through the CBI through- out the length and breadth of this country and
no useful purpose will be served by issuing any such direction, as requested by
the petitioner. Further, this malignity cannot be eradicated either by
banishing, branding, scourging or inflicting severe punishment on these
helpless and hapless victims most of whom are unwilling participants and involun-
tary victims of compelled circumstances and who, finding no way to escape, are
weeping or wailing throughout.
devastating malady can be suppressed and eradicated only if the law enforcing
authorities in that regard take very severe and speedy legal action against all
the erring persons such as pimps, brokers and brothel keepers. The Courts in
such cases have to always take a serious view of this matter and inflict
consign punishment on proof of such offences. Apart from legal action, both the
Central and the State Government who have got an obligation to safeguard the
interest and welfare of the children and girls of this country have to evaluate
various measures and implement them in the right direction.
J. (as he then was) in Lakshmi Kant Pandey v. Union of India,  2 SCC 244
while emphasizing the importance of children has expressed his view thus:
is obvious that in a civilized society the importance of child welfare cannot
be over-emphasized, because the welfare of the entire community, its growth and
development, depend on the health and well-being of its children. Children are
a 'supremely important national asset' and the future well- being of the nation
depends on how its children grow and develop." We, after bestowing our
deep and anxious consideration on this matter feel that it would be appropriate
if certain directions are given in this regard. Accordingly, we make the
the State Governments and the Governments of Union Territories should direct
their concerned law enforcing authorities to take appropriate and speedy action
under the existing laws in eradicating child prostitution without giving room
for any complaint of remissness or culpable indifference.
State Governments and the Governments of Union Terri- tories should set up a
separate Advisory Committee within their respective zones consisting of the
secretary of the Social Welfare Department or Board, the Secretary of the Law
Department, sociologists, criminologists, members of the women's organisations,
members of Indian Council of Child Welfare and Indian Council of Social Welfare
as well the members of various voluntary social organisations and asso- ciations
etc., the main objects of the Advisory Committee being to make suggestions of:
measures to be taken in eradicating the child pros- titution, and (b) the
social welfare programmes to be implemented for the care, protection,
treatment, development and rehabilitation of the young fallen victims namely
the children and girls rescued either from the brothel houses or from the vices
the State Governments and the Governments of Union Territories should take
steps in providing adequate and 869 rehabilitative homes manned by
well-qualified trained social workers, psychiatarists and doctors.
Union Government should set up a committee of its own in the line, we have
suggested under direction No.(2) the main object of which is to evolve welfare programmes
to be implemented on the national level for the care, protection,
rehabilitation etc. etc. of the young fallen victims namely the children and
girls and to make suggestions of amendments to the existing laws or for
enactment of any new law, if so warranted for the prevention of sexual exploitation
Central Government and the Governments of States and Union Territories should
devise a machinery of its own for ensuring the proper implementation of the
suggestions that would be made by the respective committees.
Advisory Committee can also go deep into devadasi system and Jogin tradition
and give their valuable advice and suggestions as to what best the Government
could do in that regard.
copies of the affidavits and the list containing the names of 9 girls are directed
to be forwarded to the Commis- sioner of Police, Delhi for necessary action.
add that we are not giving an exhaustive list of the members for the
constitution of the committee. There- fore, it is open to the concerned
Government to include any member or members in the committee as it deems
hope and trust that he directions given by us will go a long way towards
eradicating the malady of child prostitu- tion, Tevadasi system and Jogin
tradition and will also at the same time protect and safeguard the interests of
the children by preventing of the sexual abuse and exploitation.
as the remaining prayer regarding rehabilitation of the children of prostitutes
is concerned, we understand that a similar issue is raised in a separate writ
petition bearing W.P. No. 824/88 pending before this Court and this Court is
seized of the matter and also has given an interim direction on 15.11.1989 for
setting up a committee to 870 go into the question from various angles of the
problems taking into consideration the different laws relevant to the matter
and to submit its report. (Vide Gaurav Jain v. Union of India and Others, AIR
1990 SC 292. Therefore, we are not expressing any opinion on this prayer
regarding the rehabil- itation of the children of prostitutes.
the above directions, the Writ Petition is dis- posed of.
Petition disposed of.