Solitary instance of prostitution in a place does not make the place a “brothel”: Meghalaya High Court

The Meghalaya High Court ruled that solitary instance of prostitution in a place does not make the place a “brothel”.

Court Observation 

The single judge bench of Justice W. Diengdoh noted that the police acting on a complaint have arrested five persons in all, including the two petitioners. The relevant provisions of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 directed against the petitioners are Section 3(2)(a)(b) and 4(1) of the said Act.

The court in view of the authority laid down by the Madras High Court in the case of Suseela and on bare reading of the FIR against the petitioners presumed that the petitioners could not have used the said room as a brothel, not to speak of the fact that there is no evidence that they are living on the earnings of prostitution. 

The court said that the argument raised by the respondents is that the girl in question is a minor and as such, the petitioners are liable under the relevant provision of the POCSO Act, cannot be taken cognizance inasmuch as there is nothing in the FIR or the subsequent investigation wherein any provision under the POCSO Act was alleged to have been violated by the petitioners. The same is therefore, not the subject matter of the issues present in these proceedings.

Background 

A complaint was lodged by one Women Police Sub-Inspector K. R. Marak before the Officer In-Charge, Sadar Police Station, Shillong to the effect that on the same day two police personnel in plain clothes, while performing their duties at Jail Road and Police Bazar area spotted one girl and two males talking near Vishal Mega Mart after which one of them went with the girl to the compound behind J.K. International Hotel, Jail Road which is suspected to be an area where brothel and places for soliciting sex workers for prostitution takes place. The said police personnel then followed the girl and her companions and saw them enter a room. Later, a search was conducted and the said girl was found to be in the company of Rami Sinha and Sunil Kr. Singha.

Arguments 

Advocate P. Yobin, appearing for the petitioners, submitted that being found in the company of a girl is not an offence and even if assuming but not admitting that the allegation of being involved in prostitution is well founded, at best, the petitioners could be treated only as customers. The offences under Section 3(2)(a)(b) as well as Section 4(1) of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act cannot be attracted or attributed to them.

H. Kharmih, Addl. P. P has submitted that the fact that they are occupiers of the room which was used as a brothel, they are, therefore, liable under the offences alleged against them. 

He further added that under Section 5 of the ITP Act, the fact that the petitioners have procured the girl with or without her consent for the purpose of prostitution, their action is therefore, attracted by this provision and as such, they are liable to be prosecuted.

Issue raised 

The question raised for the court’s consideration is whether the petitioners have been able to make out a case for quashing the FIR and proceedings by exercise of powers under Section 482 Cr.P.C.

Decision 

The court while referring to the case of Madras High Court rejected the arguments of respondents since the argument has constricted the intent and purpose of the objective of Section 3 as far as the meaning of ‘occupier’ is concerned. Solitary instance of prostitution in a place does not make the place a “brothel”. 

The Court held that nothing in the FIR discloses any offence against the petitioners and as such, the inherent power under Section 482 Cr.P.C. can be exercised in this regard. 

Case title: Shri Sunil Kumar Singha Vs. State of Meghalaya & Ors. and Shri Rami Sinha Vs. State of Meghalaya & Ors.

Citation: Crl. Petn. No. 7 of 2022 with Crl. Petn. No. 8 of 2022

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