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Report No. 64

5.21. Recommendation to amend sections 372, 373, Penal Code.-

We have carefully considered the suggestion. We agree with the principle of the suggestion. In our view, however, it would be more appropriate to amend those sections of the Penal Code, as the subject matter of mere purchase of girls or woman falls outside the Suppression of Immoral Traffic Act-except where the purchase is for prostitution. In this connection, we may refer to two sections of the Penal Code, dealing with selling and buying minors for the purposes of prostitution, etc.-sections 372 and 373.

A person who sells, lets to hire, or otherwise disposes of any person under the age of 18 years with intent that such person shall at any age be employed for the purposes of prostitution or illicit intercourse with any person or for any unlawful and immoral purpose or with the knowledge that such person will be so employed, is punishable under section 372. Buying such a person is punishable under section 373. The material part of section 372 of the Indian Penal Code is quoted below:-

"372. Whoever sells, lets to hire, or otherwise disposes of any person under the age of eighteen years with intent that such person shall at any age be employed or used for the purposes of prostitution or illicit intercourse with any person or for any unlawful and immoral purpose, or knowing it to be likely that such person will at any age be employed or used for any such purpose, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine."

The First Explanation to the section provides as follows:-

"Explanation 1-When a female under the age of eighteen years is sold, let for hire, or otherwise disposed of to a prostitute or to any person who keeps or manages a brothel, the person so disposing of such female shall, until the contrary is proved, be presumed to have disposed of her with the intent that she shall be used for the purpose of prostitution."

Section 373 makes similar provisions for the person who buys etc, minors for purpose of prostitution etc. In order to achieve the object, it will be necessary to amend sections 372 and 373 of the Indian Penal Code, so as to delete the words "under the age of eighteen years" (and to make consequential changes), in sections 372 and 373. We recommend accordingly.1

1. To be carried out under sections 372-373, Indian Penal Code.

5.21. Amendment of section 372 appropriate.-

We may state here that an amendment of sections 372-373 on the lines suggested above would not be inappropriate. No doubt, at present, under section 372, it is only the sale, etc. of a person under the age of 18 years for the specified purpose which is punishable. In fact, as originally enacted, section 372 prescribed the age limit of 16 years and it was in 1924 that, by an amendment, the age was raised to 18 years. The per"son under the age of 18 years may be married or unmarried1.

Normally, the sale or letting to hire or other disposition of a person, as contemplated by the section, will be difficult in the case of a person above the age of 18 years, since he would be expected to resist the disposition effectively. Nevertheless, there is no reason why, if such an act is committed in respect of an adult, it should not be punishable. Sections 372 and 373 are beneficial provisions, and we see no reason why the scope of such mercenary crimes should be limited to acts in respect of minors.

1. Crown v. Kammu. (1879)- Punjab Record No. 12 (Criminal) 34, 35.

5.21A. It has been pointed out that sections 372 and 373 were originally enacted to deal with "trafficking in innocence"1. It has also been stated2 that these sections protect female minors against their guardians and third parties in respect of acts of disposal for a life of prostitution. These propositions correctly analyse the present section but they do not, in our view, militate against the extension of these sections to adults, if the kind of control envisaged by the sections is, in practice, found to have been exercised over adults. It may be noted that the sections of the Penal Code relating to slavery are not confined to minors.3

1. Dowlat Bee v. Sheikh Ali, 5 Mad HC Reports 473.

2. Venku v. Mahnlingo, ILR 11 Mad 393 (492).

3. Sections 370 and 371, Indian Penal Code.



Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Girls Act, 1956 Back




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