The Karnataka High Court has refused to quash a case under the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act against a 44-year-old man from Kasaragod in neighbouring Kerala, who claimed he was a customer in a brothel and should be let off.
The courts have on earlier occasions let off customers arrested in raids on brothels and charged under the ITP.
In this case though, the single judge bench of Justice M Nagaprasanna said, ”It is in those cases under the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, those customers have been let off the hook. The case at hand is not the one of that kind. The offences do not stop at POCSO but even under the Information Technology Act for having threatened the victim that her videos would be uploaded on multiple websites.” The man is the accused number seven in the case.
The senior advocate appearing for him submitted before the court that ”the petitioner was only a customer who was introduced by accused No.1 and being a customer who had indulged in alleged sexual intercourse with the complainant, a minor cannot be proceeded against, as it is the constant view of this Court while interfering under the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act to absolve the customer from the allegation under the POCSO Act. Here again, the petitioner is on the same footing as he was a customer.” The court said his submission that he is a customer and ”should be absolved and not liable to be prosecuted under the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act and, therefore should be let off is again unacceptable as, it is not a case where the alleged victim was above 18 years.” ”It is not a case that the police have conducted a search and unearthed any incident in a particular place which has been used to run a racket of prostitution,” it said.
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A 17-year-old girl from Chikmagaluru, studying in Mangaluru, had filed a complaint against certain people including the accused in the present case for forcing her into prostitution and sexual assaults by several people. She escaped from the clutches of the persons holding her in a house and filed a complaint with the police.
”She is a victim of sexual abuse and has registered the said complaint. Therefore, the learned senior counsel cannot draw parallel to a search being conducted on a spa, brothel or a lodge where the customer is found to have indulged in such activity with the victim,” the court said in its recent judgement.
The police have registered multiple cases in the issue. The accused, who approached the High Court, also sought the dismissal of the case as multiple cases have been filed in the same incident.
However, the court rejected this contention because though the victim was the same, the criminal acts on her were different.
”Merely because the victim is the same, it cannot be said that only one crime should have been registered and all of them should be put in one basket as accused in the said crime,” the court said.