Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Budhadev Karmaskar V/s. State of West Bengal 135_2010 2 Aug 2011





Budhadev Karmaskar .. Appellant
State of West Bengal .. Respondent


"Pinha tha daam-e-sakht qareeb aashiyaan ke

Udhne hi na paaye the ki giraftaar hum hue"
Mirza Ghalib

1. This exercise was initiated by us by our order dated

14th February 2011. By that order we dismissed the appeal

of the appellant, who was convicted for murdering a sex

worker in a red light area in Kolkata by battering her head

repeatedly against the wall and the floor of a room.

Having dismissed the appeal we suo motu converted the case

into a PIL by the same order in order to address the

problems of sex workers in the country.

2. In our order dated 14th February, 2011 we observed:

"This is a case of brutal murder of a sex
worker. Sex workers are also human beings and no
one has a right to assault or murder them. A
person becomes a prostitute not because she
enjoys it but because of poverty. Society must
have sympathy towards the sex workers and must
not look down upon them. They are also entitled
to a life of dignity in view of Article 21 of the

In the novels and stories of the great
Bengali writer Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyaya,
many prostitutes have been shown to be women of
very high character, e.g., Rajyalakshmi in
'Shrikant', Chandramukhi in 'Devdas', etc.

The plight of prostitutes has been depicted
by the great Urdu poet Sahil Ludhianvi in his
poem 'Chakle' which has been sung in the Hindi
film Pyasa "Jineh Naaz Hai Hind Par wo kahan
hain" (simplified version of the verse 'Sana
Khwan-e-taqdees-e-Mashrik Kahan Hain').

We may also refer to the character Sonya
Marmelodova in Dostoyevsky's famous novel 'Crime
and Punishment'. Sonya is depicted as a girl who
sacrifices her body to earn some bread for her
impoverished family.

Reference may also be made to Amrapali, who
was a contemporary of Lord Buddha".

3. We further observed :

"Although we have dismissed this Appeal, we
strongly feel that the Central and the State
Governments through Social Welfare Boards should
prepare schemes for rehabilitation all over the
country for physically and sexually abused women
commonly known as prostitutes as we are of the
view that the prostitutes also have a right to
live with dignity under Article 21 of the
Constitution of India since they are also human
beings and their problems also need to be

As already observed by us, a woman is
compelled to indulge in prostitution not for
pleasure but because of abject poverty. If such a
woman is granted opportunity to avail some
technical or vocational training, she would be
able to earn her livelihood by such vocational
training and skill instead of by selling her

Hence, we direct the Central and the
State Governments to prepare schemes for giving
technical/vocational training to sex workers and
sexually abused women in all cities in India.
The schemes should mention in detail who will
give the technical/vocational training and in
what manner they can be rehabilitated and settled
by offering them employment. For instance, if a
technical training is for some craft like sewing
garments, etc. then some arrangements should also
be made for providing a market for such garments,
otherwise they will remain unsold and unused, and
consequently the woman will not be able to feed

4. Subsequently by another order we constituted a panel

headed by Mr. Pradip Ghosh, Senior Advocate as the Chairman

and including Mr. Jayant Bhushan, Senior Advocate, Durbar

Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC), Usha Multipurpose

Cooperative Society (UMCS) and Roshni through its founder

Ms. Saima Hasan. We also directed the Central Government

to provide some accommodation as well as infrastructure,

staff etc. to the panel, and grant it adequate funds.

5. Today, an interim report has been submitted to us by

the panel stating that the panel held its first meeting on

25th July, 2011 at 04.30 P.M. and discussed various aspects

of the problems relating to sex workers. The report shall

be taken on record.

6. We have perused the report. It shows that the panel

has set about the task assigned to it in right earnest.

7. The report has prayed for directions to the Central

Government to make necessary funds available for holding

workshops/meetings to be attended by experts, resource

persons, organizations etc. who may be invited by the panel

for this purpose and to arrange their travel by air/rail

to and fro Delhi, and also to make suitable arrangements

for their accommodation etc. Funds may also be made

available to the panel so that the members can educate the

concerned people and also to visit other three metropolitan

cities i.e. Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai and also other

cities/towns. Funds are also required for advertisements

in newspapers and T.V. inviting responses from social

organizations and interested individuals who may send their

suggestions/comments and also for the purpose of printing

and publications, as may be necessary.

8. We direct the Central and the State Governments to

provide funds as prayed for by the panel in its report

after discussions with the Chairman of the panel Mr. Pradip

Ghosh, Senior Advocate and other members.

9. In paragraph 10 of the report it has been stated that

the Central Government has assured that they will arrange a

place for the meetings of the Panel with necessary

infrastructure, computer, staff etc. The Central

Government should also look around for a permanent office

accommodation for the panel as that will be necessary

sooner or later for the proper functioning of the Panel.

10. We have noted that some of the members of the panel

are from Kolkata and Delhi, but there is no representation

from Mumbai and Chennai. Since we had directed that we

shall first take up the problems of sex workers in the four

metropolitan cities, i.e. Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and

Chennai, we suggest to the Chairman of the panel to co-opt

some suitable NGOs/social activists from Mumbai and

Chennai also in this connection.

11. We again reiterate that this exercise is because we

are of the opinion that sex workers are also human beings

and hence they are entitled to a life of dignity. It has

been well-settled by a series of decisions of this Court

that the word `life' in Article 21 of the Constitution

means a life of dignity and not just an animal life. We

are of the opinion that sex workers obviously cannot lead

a life of dignity as long as they remain sex workers.

12. Sex among human beings is different from sex among

animals. Sex in humans has a cultural aspect to it also,

and is not just a physical act. A sex worker who has to

surrender her body to a man for money obviously is not

leading a life of dignity. Ordinarily, no woman will

willingly surrender her body to a man unless she loves and

respects him. A sex worker is obviously not surrendering

her body to a man because she loves and respect him, but

just for sheer survival. As Nancy says in Charles Dicken's

novel `Oliver Twist', "you adapt or you die".

13. Apart from that, sex workers are always in danger of

getting sexually transmitted diseases (STD), and they are

often abused and beaten by the proprietors of the brothel

and others who give them a pittance out of her earnings.

A woman becomes a sex worker not because she enjoys it but

due to abject poverty. One estimate suggests that there

are 3 million sex workers in India, many even from Nepal,

Bangaldesh, and even the former Soviet Union. This is due

to massive poverty in the country, and abroad.

14. Our effort in this exercise is to educate the public

and inform them that sex workers are not bad persons, but

they are unfortunate girls who have been forced to go into

this flesh trade due to terrible poverty. Hence society

should not look down upon the sex workers but should have

sympathy with them. In fact, in the novels of the great

Bengali writer Sharat Chandra Chattopadhayay it has been

shown that many of the sex workers were women of very high

character, e.g. Rajyalakshmi, Chandramukhi, etc. and the

same has been shown in the novels of many European writers.

The Russian writer Dostoyevsky's novel `Crime & Punishment'

has shown Sonia Marmeladova as a woman of high character

who became a sex worker to feed her starving family.

Similarly, in Charles Dicken's novel `Oliver Twist', the

sex worker Nancy is shown to be a girl of high character

who sacrifices her life to save Oliver. In Victor Hugo's

famous novel `Les Miserables', Fantine sacrifices her hair

and teeth to provide for her daughter Cosette. Martha in

`David Copperfield' is also depicted as a woman of noble


15. We are of the opinion that if sex workers are given

proper technical training they will be able to come out of

sex work and instead earn their livelihood through their

technical skills instead of by selling their bodies. That

will enable them to live a life of dignity.

16. An impleadment application praying for impleadment in

this case has been filed. We are of the opinion that

instead of applying for impleadment in this case, the
applicant should approach the Panel constituted by us and

give whatever assistance the applicant wishes to give to

the Panel. With these observations, the impleadment

application is disposed of.

17. Learned counsel appearing for the State of Uttarakhand

has stated that he will file a comprehensive affidavit on

behalf of the State within two weeks. He may do so.

18. We may mention here that we are not satisfied with the

affidavits already filed by the State Governments before

us. Their contents are vague and too general. We had

expected the State Governments to come forward with

specific schemes for giving technical training to sex

workers but that has not been done. Hence, we direct that

the Secretaries, Social Welfare Departments of the State

Governments and the Central Government to meet the Panel

constituted by us whenever the Chairman of the Panel so

desires so as to discuss how proper schemes in the spirit

of our orders can be prepared.

19. We are of the opinion that the States should not only

come out with schemes indicating therein rehabilitation of

the sex workers but they should also demonstrate their

commitment to the cause by coming out with some concrete

results, at least in phases. So by the next date we expect

the State counsels to come out with some effective feedback

whether at least a few sex workers have been offered any

alternative employment, in case they were willing for

rehabilitation. We also leave it to the Chairman of the

Panel constituted by us to come out with some suggestions

in what way the sex workers through the State Governments

and the metro cities can come out with effective results in

this regard and by way of illustration at least they must

come out with report of rehabilitation of at least some of

the sex workers in each of the States. We make it clear

that any rehabilitation of the sex workers will not be

coercive in any manner and it shall be voluntary on the

part of the sex workers.

20. The Chairman of the Panel with the assistance of the

NGOs can provide a list by the next date at least of those

sex workers who are living under dire circumstances and are

willing for rehabilitation. We are informed that some of

the NGOs have a list of figures and localities of such sex

workers who are immediately willing for rehabilitation and

want to get out of the flesh trade.

21. We are fully conscious of the fact that simply by our

orders the sex workers in our country will not be

rehabilitated immediately. It will take a long time, but

we have to work patiently in this direction. What we have

done in this case is to present the situation of sex

workers in the country in the correct light, so as to

educate the public. It is ultimately the people of the

country, particularly the young people, who by their

idealism and patriotism can solve the massive problems of

sex workers. We, therefore, particularly appeal to the

youth of the country to contact the members of the panel

and to offer their services in a manner which the panel may

require so that the sex workers can be uplifted from their

present degraded condition. They may contact the panel at

the email address: panelonsexworkers@gmail.com.

22. List the case again before this Bench on 24.08.2011 at

10.30 a.m. by which date the Panel appointed by us should

submit another report of the progress made.


NEW DELHI; ........................J.

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