With the Centre yet to come up with a law on sex workers, the Supreme Court, in exercise of its powers under Article 142, has issued direction to treat the community with dignity and not to abuse them, verbally or physically, saying it has upheld the fundamental rights of sex workers to be treated as equal citizens.
Observing that human decency and dignity extend to sex workers and their children, the Supreme Court recently directed police forces in all states and Union territories to treat sex workers with dignity.
A bench presided by Justice L Nageswara Rao also asked the Centre to spell out its stand on recommendation by a panel appointed by it in 2011 to exempt sex workers — who are adults and participates with consent — from criminal action.
It also said that the constitutional protection given to all individuals in this country shall be kept in mind by the authorities who have a duty under the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act (ITPA), 1956.
The bench, also comprising Justices B F Gavai and A S Bopanna, asked states and Union Territories to “act in strict compliance of” some of these “recommendations” which “relate only to rehabilitation measures in respect of sex workers and other connected issues”.
The bench said, “It need not be gainsaid that notwithstanding the profession, every individual in this country has a right to a dignified life under Article 21 of the Constitution. Constitutional protection that is given to all individuals in this country shall be kept in mind by the authorities who have a duty under Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act,1956.”
On May 19, the top court had asked the Centre to place its views in six weeks on recommendations on which it had reservations. This came after Additional Solicitor General Jayant Sud informed the bench that the government had “certain reservations” on some of the panel’s recommendations.
On July 19, 2011, the court had ordered setting up of a panel headed by senior advocate Pradip Ghosh as chairman to suggest measures to prevent trafficking, rehabilitate sex workers who wish to leave it, and also to make conditions conducive for sex workers who wish to continue working to do that with dignity.