Budhadev Karmaskar Vs.
State of West Bengal
O R D E R
hai ye hawwaa ki beti Yashodaa ki hamjins raadhaa ki beti Payambar ki ummat
zulaikhaa ki beti Sanaakhwaan-e-taqdees-e-mashriq kahaan hain? Zaraa mulk ke
rahbaron ko bulao Ye kooche ye galiyaan ye manzar dikhao Sanaakhwaan-e-taqdees-e-mashriq
ko lao Sanakhwaan-e-taqdees-e-mashriq kahaan hain?" Sahir Luhdhianvi
order is in continuation of our earlier orders in this case which aim at
providing a life of dignity to the sex workers in our country by giving them some
technical skills through which they can earn their livelihood instead of by
selling their bodies. The legal background of these orders is Article 21 of the
Constitution, in which the word `life' has been interpreted by this Court to
mean a life of dignity, and not just an animal life.
Pradip Ghosh, Chairman of the Panel appointed by us, submitted a report stating
that a meeting of the Panel on Sex Workers was held at the Arbitration Room of M.C.
Setalvad Lawyers' Chambers Block, Supreme Court on 05.08.2011. At a subsequent meeting
held on 17.08.2011, the members of the Panel along with representatives of the
State Governments of Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh,
West Bengal, Haryana and the Central Government as well as representatives of some
NGOs and some senior Police Officers of the State of Tamil Nadu and Delhi were present.
In its report the Panel has mentioned the State wise figures of sex workers
rehabilitated so far.
our orders dated 19.07.2011 and 02.08.2011 we had directed the Central
Government and State Governments to provide certain funds to the Panel so that
it could function effectively. However we are informed that as yet no funds
have been provided, which is hampering the work of the Panel. The Panel has
suggested that the Central government be directed to provide Rupees
10,00,000/-, each state Government a sum of Rupees 5,00,000/- and each union territory
Rupees 2,00,000/- to the Panel. We accept this recommendation and direct accordingly,
with the modification that States/Union Territories which have no sex workers as
stated in their affidavits need not make this payment. This amount should be paid
positively by 07.09.2011 to the Secretary General of this Court who will deposit
it in a nationalized bank nominated by the Chairman of the Panel, Mr. Pradip
Ghosh, Sr. Advocate.
Pradip Ghosh, Senior Advocate (whose full name for Banking purpose is Pradip
Kumar Ghosh) and Mr. Jayant Bhushan, Senior Advocate, who is a member of the
Panel, are jointly authorized to open a bank account in the nationalized Bank where
the money is deposited, to be operated jointly by them. The Chairman of the Panel
will furnish to the Secretary General of this Court accounts of the expenditure
incurred by the Panel from time to time. It will be open to the Chairman of the
Panel to seek further orders of this Court in this connection.
is also prayed in the report of the Panel submitted before us today that there
is no proper accommodation for the functioning of the Panel. We agree that
unless some accommodation is provided the Panel will not be able to function properly
and effectively. We are informed that the Central Government has in its occupation
a portion of the Indian Law Institute Building. We direct that the said accommodation/office
space shall be allotted forthwith to the Panel constituted by us, and not later
than 01.09.2011. The said office space shall be properly furnished and equipped
by the Central Government with computer, furniture etc. so that the Panel may be
able to carry out the day to day activities thereon. Secretarial assistance and
services of office attendants and other staff shall also be made available
forthwith by the Central Government as requested by Shri Pradip Ghosh, Chairman
of the Panel.
our order dated 19.7.2011, this Court was pleased to direct the States/Union
Territories and the Union of India to carry out surveys through their Agencies
and to report to the Panel the findings of the said surveys. The survey was meant
to ascertain as to how many sex workers want rehabilitation and how many of
them would voluntarily continue in the same profession. Each State Government
should undertake such survey through their Agencies in collaboration with the
Central Government on the lines as recommended by the Panel. For this purpose, the
help of NGOs, Expert Bodies and Demographers may be obtained by the Governments
concerned. At the first instance, the said surveys may be made with regard to
the four Metropolitan Cities, namely, Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata. Subsequently
other States and Union Territories should also carry out such surveys.
Panel will make recommendations in respect of such surveys and the same should be
complied with by the respective State Governments. The results of the surveys
shall be reported to the Panel .
convey our gratitude to the Central Government and various State Governments who
sent their representatives to the meeting held on 17.08.2011. Many of them have
made valuable contributions in the said meeting as mentioned in the report of the
Panel. We request them to continue attending the Panel meetings whenever
requested by the Chairman, and give all help in this connection.
are happy to note that Mr. Pradip Ghosh, Chairman of the Panel has decided to add
South India AIDS Action Programme through its director Ms. Indumati which is
situated in Chennai, Shakti Vahini through Shri Ravi Kant which is a NGO based
in Delhi, Prerana, an NGO based in Mumbai, and Mr. Tariq Khan, a social
activist of Lucknow, as members of the Panel. Some of them have given valuable
inputs in the meeting dated 17.08.2011 as mentioned in the Report of the Panel.
were happy to note from the report of the Panel that the Government of Andhra
Pradesh and Prajwala, a NGO operating in Andhra Pradesh, have substantially supported
each other, both in their efforts in rehabilitation of sex workers as also in
the representations made before the Panel with regard to the information as regards
rehabilitation. Notwithstanding the changes in the State government from time to
time, Prajwala and other NGOs have received consistent support from the State Government
in this connection. This seems to be a unique feature in the State of Andhra
Pradesh, and should be emulated by other States.
its report the Panel has mentioned that the NGO Prerana, represented by Ms.
Priti Patkar situated in Mumbai has rehabilitated 4973 sex workers between 198 and
2010. The rescued women were given vocational training and made economically
has trained women as mobile crhches, petrol pump fillers, catering and hospitality,
beauty care, fashion designing, starting their own enterprises as small
businesses and also in some other areas of vocational replacement. Some young women
have been placed in McDonalds, Dominos, PPCL Petrol Pump, and Food Courts in
Malls etc. These are some of the areas of employment for absorbing these former
sex workers. These women who have been rehabilitated by Prerana have not been
seen back in the flesh trade. It seems that they have been re-integrated in the
mainstream and their past identity has been completely obliterated. Some of
them are still in touch with Prerana and the reports reveal that they are doing
well and some are settled with their children. Some have started a life with their
former clients out of the arena of the flesh trade. Some are happy with the small
business of their own that they run. Some have left for their native towns/villages.
Women who move out of the city are always given a list of contacts whom they
can approach in case they require any assistance. All this shows that Prerna
has been doing excellent work.
the State of Tamil Nadu in the year 2010-2011 532 sex workers were given
vocational training, and 424 restored to their respective families. Many of
them were minors.
Archana Ramasundaram, Additional DIG of Police (Crime), Tamil Nadu stated that
the major stumbling block in the matter of rescue of victims of sex trafficking
is that pimps get to know about the trafficked girls before the authorities
come to know of them, and often even the family of the girl is involved in the
racket. We are, therefore, of the view that if an incident of the involvement of
the family of the girl pushing her into the sex racket comes to the notice of anyone
concerned including NGOs, authorities, etc. we direct that such incident be
reported to the Executive Chairman/Secretary of the State Legal Services
Authority. It will be open for the said Authority to take appropriate penal
action against such illegality or person who may be found involved. Unless this
nexus between the traffickers, pimps and the brothel owners, together with the family
at times, is broken, successful rescue and rehabilitation becomes difficult. Ms.
Ramasundaram also suggested that instead of producing the rescued women in
person in court, a system of video conferencing could be effective so that the
girls do not have to actually travel and are, therefore, safe and hidden from
the pimps. We are further of the view that all the State Legal Services
Authorities should provide a helpline number to the NGOs and to the State
machinery as well as to the sex workers and victims of sex trade who are in distress
and who are compelled to continue with the sex trade, so that they can avail
the benefit of the helpline number for providing legal assistance, to get them rescued
or any other assistance which may be offered to them by way of Free Legal Aid. The
State Legal Services Authorities thereafter may direct them to the concerned and
appropriate authorities for taking remedial measures in that regard and also report
the matter to the Panel which has been constituted by us.
Indumati representing South India AIDS Action Program from Chennai who
participated on behalf of the said NGO stated that many of the sex workers want
to learn additional skills but they still want to continue with their old
profession in the red light area because some of their clients are very
persistent and keep on coming back and are unwilling to let the sex workers leave
the profession. For many sex workers, the rehabilitation process is important
but only if they are old and cannot get any income by selling their bodies. Many
of them want vocational training only to add to their income while continuing
with their sex work. Unless the attitude of the public in general towards the sex
workers undergoes a change so as to remove the stigma attached to their profession,
and there is more acceptability of the rehabilitated sex workers in the
mainstream, it is difficult to persuade the sex workers to get rehabilitated
leaving their old profession.
is always a prevailing fear that by opting for rehabilitation they may be worse
off by losing their old livelihood and also not being able to survive in the
alternative vocation unless there is ready acceptance of the former sex workers
in the mainstream.
regards the State of West Bengal, it is well know that Calcutta has a huge number
of sex workers in Sonagachi, Free School Street etc. The Government of West
Bengal stated that there is no convincing data available in respect of the
number of sex workers rehabilitated so far and it will take time to collect the
same from the service providers. However, they are running 17 homes under the Swadhar
Schemes and two Homes under the Ujwala Scheme and 43 Short Stay Homes. These Homes
give shelter to rescued sex workers.
this connection we wish to say that providing short stay homes to sex workers
is hardly a solution to their problem. They must be provided a marketable
technical skill so that they can earn their livelihood through such technical skill
instead of by selling their bodies. Merely sending them to homes is sending
them to starvation. We were, therefore, disappointed by the approach of the
State of West Bengal, where the problem is most acute. Much more needs to be
done by the State Government.
the Panel meeting, the representative of the State Government who was a director
in the Department of Social Welfare stated that 15 sex workers have been permanently
rehabilitated in the sense that they have been given direct employment and are
now married. Some sex workers have been successfully employed as Anganwadi workers
and helpers. He also estimated that about another one thousand sex workers have
been rehabilitated in the State in the sense that they have been given new jobs
and are not likely to return to their old profession, but this is not a
verified figure. Some of the rescued sex workers who were from Bangladesh and Nepal
were repatriated to the countries of their origin. Ms. Bharti Dey representing Durbar
Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC) questioned the basis of calculation of the
figures given by the Government representative. She also questioned as to where
and how the sex workers have been rehabilitated.
behalf of DMSC and USHA Multipurpose Cooperative Society, Dr. S. Jana and Ms. Bharti
Dey who spoke at the meeting also submitted written responses, stating that:
a. DMSC itself has employed
about 500 sex workers in their Health intervention Program. On enquiry, it
has been learnt by DMSC that 55 have ceased to work in their old profession while
the rest continue to sell sex while still holding jobs as health workers. It
was learnt that those 55 who really gave up their old profession were at the
fag end of their working life in sex work. They were neither able to compete with
their younger colleagues nor able to perform the jobs that was required of
b. According to the
records maintained by USHA, 8 sex workers employed as Field Collectors for the
Cooperative Societies, Bank have discontinued sex work. Another 10 women have
started working as beautician and do not engage in sex work.
c. According to DMSC,
the inference drawn from these findings is that while women may leave sex
work but they do not leave the sex work sector. Those who stop selling sex
find alternative work in the red light area itself. This is because they do not
experience adverse stigma and discrimination among their peers as they would
face outside the red light area.
d. It was emphasized that
the so-called Homes run under the Government sponsored projects virtually operate
as prison houses so much so that even if a sex worker may not be willing to
leave the profession they would not like to live in the so- called Homes. The
reluctance is not so much due to loss of earning but more because they do not
want to be imprisoned or to lose their freedom.
Sunanda Bose, representing All Bengal Women's Union, emphasized that stereotypical
vocational training would not work anymore as the women earn more in sex work
than they are able to earn by giving up their profession. More innovative jobs
have to be offered to them to induce them to leave the profession. She gave the
example of one sex worker who was rescued by her who is now working as a Petrol
Pump Operator and earns about Rs.7,000/- per month.
Bose made valuable suggestions and various inputs with regard to rehabilitation
of the sex workers.
regards Delhi there seems to be no scheme of the State Government for rehabilitation
of sex workers. This is indeed regrettable. There are many red light areas such
as the one in G. B. Road etc. in Delhi. The State Government needs to do much
more in this connection.
Vahini, represented by Shri Ravi Kant, stated in the Panel meeting that not a
single victim of commercial sexual exploitation has been rehabilitated in
Delhi. The Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) of Delhi Police made
significant contributions at the said meeting by making certain important
suggestions. He pointed out that the reluctance on the part of the sex workers
to leave their profession is because they are not sure about their future in
the alternative livelihood and as to what security they would have in their life
ahead since it seems to them that nothing is on a permanent basis. This lack of
faith is not in the rehabilitation process but rather in its structure. The rehabilitation
Scheme must be made more effective and sensitive as to the mindset of the
victims. He pointed out various problems in the implementation of rescue operation
and the rehabilitation process, some of which were agreed to by the
representatives of the NGOs also.
regards the Central Government, Ms. Sangeeta Verma, Economic Adviser, Ministry of
Women & Child Development, Government of India who represented the Central
Government at the Panel meeting, explained the significance of the UJWALA Scheme
which has five components utilized for rehabilitation of sex workers. She also pointed
out that if the sex workers do not wish to go back home, then another program
called STEP is available for them which is being implemented by the Central
Government effectively. She pointed out that poverty is the main factor which
pushes vulnerable women to prostitution. She emphasized that the Central Government
has Schemes in place which may be availed of by the sex workers who are
voluntarily willing to opt for their rehabilitation, although these are not
specially earmarked for the sex workers. Even such general schemes can be made
use of by them once they are willing to come out of the sex trade . We request
the panel to investigate whether these schemes exist largely on paper only, or
whether they have been actually implemented.
a perusal of the UJWALA Scheme it appears that the Central Government has
scheme only for rescued trafficked women but no scheme for those sex workers who
voluntarily want to leave the sex trade. In our opinion, proper effective
scheme should be prepared for such women also. In this connection, we would like
to say that the Central Government scheme has placed a condition that the
rescued sex workers must stay in a corrective home in order to get technical
training. In our opinion, no such condition should be imposed as many sex workers
are reluctant to stay in these corrective homes which they consider as virtual
a perusal of the report of the Panel dated 23.08.2011 we are not satisfied that
the Central Government and State Governments are effectively carrying out the
spirit of our orders in this case. While a few officers have indeed been motivated,
much more needs to be done by the authorities. Hence by the next date of hearing
the Central Government and State Governments must submit additional reports stating
in greater detail how they are complying with our orders.
In our dated 02.08.2011 we observed:- "We are fully conscious of the
fact that simply by our orders the sex workers in our country will not be rehabilitated
immediately. It will take a long time, but we have to work patiently in this direction.
What we have done in this case is to present the situation of sex workers in
the country in the correct light, so as to educate the public. It is ultimately
the people of the country, particularly the young people, who by their idealism
and patriotism can solve the massive problems of sex workers. We, therefore, particularly
appeal to the youth of the country to contact the members of the panel and to
offer their services in a manner which the panel may require so that the sex
workers can be uplifted from their present degraded condition. They may
contact the panel at the email address: email@example.com." We
again reiterate our appeal to the public, and particularly to the youth of the country
to contact members of the panel at the e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org
and give their valuable suggestions and inputs. This would surely be of great
help to the Panel.
this case again before us on 15.9.2011.
of this order will be sent by the Registry of this Court to the Chief Secretaries
and Secretaries of the Home/Social Welfare/Women's Welfare Department of all State
Governments/Union Territories and shall also be sent to the Secretaries of the
concerned Departments of the Central Government e.g. Home Ministry, Urban
Development Ministry, Ministry of Social Welfare, Women's Welfare Ministry etc.
They will ensure compliance of this order. Copy of this order as well as our
previous orders in this regard and of the Panel reports shall also be forwarded
to the National Commission For Women, New Delhi through its Chairperson, and the
Chairperson of the National Commission is requested to depute one or more of its
members to regularly attend the meetings of the panel, whose dates will be
informed in advance by the Chairman of the Panel. Copies of this order will
also be given to all the counsels in this case free of charge.