Mere presence at a brothel doesn't fasten any penal consequence: Madras High Court

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Allowing a petition moved for quashing of the First Information Report against a man, the Madras High Court recently observed that merely because the man was present at an alleged brothel during the police raid, he could not be fastened with any penal consequence.

The bench of Justice N Sathish Kumar, citing a recent Supreme Court judgment that held that whenever a brothel is raided, sex workers should not be arrested, penalized, harassed, or victimized, held,

"From the aforesaid decision, any sex worker, being an adult and indulging in sexual act with his/her own consent, the police authorities should refrain from taking action against such individuals. From the facts, as is evident from the FIR and the alteration report, there is no whisper about any coercion on the sex workers to commit the act, more so from the petitioner. That being the case, the petitioner not being alleged to be a person coercing the sex worker to commit the sexual act, continuing the First Information Report against this petitioner is nothing but a futile exercise and would serve no purpose."

Court was dealing with a criminal original petition moved by one Udhaya Kumar, who was arrested by the Police during the raid of a massage centre, which the police claimed to be a brothel. The man was present at the parlor, along with alleged sex workers, and he was apprehended and arraigned as an accused in the case.

Kumar’s counsel argued that even if all of the allegations made by the Police were true, they would not attract any offence. Doing sex work is not illegal and only running a brothel is illegal, he said. 

He stressed that the sex workers were engaged in prostitution on their own volition and not due to any inducement, force or coercion and, therefore, such acts were not liable for prosecution under Section 370 of the Indian Penal Code.

Taking note of these submissions and material on record, Court stated that in the police report as well as the alteration report, Kumar was only shown as an accused who was only present at the alleged brothel at the time of the raid.

"Even a bare perusal of the FIR does not reveal the presence of the petitioner at the said place. Further, the petitioner is also not shown as an accused in the FIR....Even if the entire report is taken at its face value, the said report does not show any offence committed by the petitioner, except for the alleged presence of the petitioner at the said place," Court noted. 

Therefore, stressing that as was evident from the FIR and the alteration report, there was no whisper about any coercion on the sex workers to commit the act of prostitution, more so from Kumar, Court held that the First Information Report against him was nothing but a futile exercise.

Accordingly, Court quashed the said FIR to the extent Kumar was concerned. 

Case Title: Udhaya Kumar v. State and Another