In a weird case, the Bombay High Court has had to make a very obvious statement. This is the story.
Police in Mumbai raided an apartment owned by a 44-year-old woman, and found two women sitting on a bench, five packets of condoms, some tissues and an electricity bill in the name of the owner of the flat. The police said in court that the two women told them that they were engaged in prostitution, and paid half of what they earned to the owner of the flat. The owner was charged under the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act and sentenced to two years in prison by a sessions court.
Weirdly though, the two women found at the scene were not examined as prosecution witnesses. This means that the only actual evidence the sessions court had when sentencing the woman was the presence of women, condoms and tissues in the flat, and a police officer’s testimony that the women there said that they were prostitutes. The defence also submitted that the officer involved had no power to investigate the case. This led the Bombay HC to observe that “There is nothing to show that victims were exploited or abused for sex. Merely because girls are found and condoms are found it cannot be said that prostitution was going on.”
Which is true. Any place that has women (not sure why both the media and the Court are referring to the women as “girls”, because there’s nothing to indicate that they were minors), condoms and tissues is not a brothel. Considering the number of cases where police have falsely implicated people in crimes, it’s great that the Court made it clear that the mere testimony of an police officer (and in this case, one who didn’t have the power to investigate the case) wasn’t enough for a conviction.
Still, it always makes me feel a bit for judges when they have to spend their time saying the most obvious things on the planet.