Bombay HC sets 3 sex workers free, says prostitution not illegal

Women belonging to community with tradition of prostitution were rescued by police and lodged in women’s hostel on orders of a lower court

Maharashtra, Bombay High Court, coronavirus, COVID-19, private hospitals, treatment charges
The HC also refused the Union government’s request to stay the order to enable it file an appeal

The Bombay High Court observed that prostitution was not an offence under the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act (IPTA), 1956, and that an adult woman has the right to choose her vocation, while setting free three sex workers detained at a women’s hostel, on Thursday (September 24).

“There is no provision under the law which makes prostitution per se a criminal offence or punishes a person because he indulges in prostitution,” Justice Prithviraj Chavan said.

The court clarified that while prostitution was legal, activities like soliciting in a public place or abuse of a person for commercial purposes is a crime under law.


The women, aged 20, 22 and 23 were produced before a metropolitan magistrate, after being “rescued” by a social service brain of Mumbai police from the Chincholi Binder area of Mumbai in September 2019.

The magistrate remanded them to a women’s hostel and asked the probation officer to submit a report.  Based on the report of the officer, the court during a hearing on October 19, 2019 refused to hand over their custody to their mothers as the magistrate did not see it in the interest of the women. The women were instead sent to a hostel in Uttar Pradesh.

The probation officer had stated that the women belonged to a community in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh known for its tradition of prostitution.

The women had moved the Bombay High Court after a sessions court upheld the magistrate’s order on November 22, 2019.

Upturning the order of the sessions the Bombay High Court said the women were majors and have a right to stay in their own place of choosing and practice the occupation they desire and cannot be restrained against their wishes.

It is important to note that the petitioners / victims are major and, therefore, have a right to reside at the place of their choice, to move freely throughout the territory of India and to choose their own vocation, as enshrined the Constitution of India,” said the judge.


Get breaking news and latest updates from India
and around the world on