Budhadev Karmaskar v. State of West Bengal and Others


This is the murder case of sex worker Shrimati Chhayai Rani Pal alias Buri (45) by accused Budhadev Karmaskar. The incident occurred on September 17, 1999, at around 9: pm. Inside a three-storey building on Jogen Duta Lane, Calcutta’s red-light district. Mrs Buri was a resident of the building.[1]

  • The accused became enraged and assaulted the deceased by punching him in the head several times, kicking him, punching him, and hitting her hands and feet. The deceased was thrown onto the first floor. That wasn’t enough, so the defendant dragged him by the hair and slammed his head against the wall. 
  • This incident was witnessed by Asha Khatun, who was parading on the second floor. There were protests against him and when this happened, he ran away to protect himself. 
  • As a result of this case, the appellant was found guilty of assault resulting in death for the murder of a prostitute. The conviction was upheld by both the High Court and the Supreme Court on the grounds that prostitutes should not be violated and should be able to indulge in prostitution with dignity and self-interest, not through violence or deception.

This time, cases involving sex workers are in the spotlight, but there are many other cases that are not being covered by anyone.

However, this event does not change the situation of the people living in such areas, how they live, what kind of lifestyle they adopt and how they are treated by the people. It opened the eyes of many people.

Most of the sex workers may not even be able to afford basic necessities, or may not even be aware of the possibility of contracting the disease. They may also have a desire to start a family and provide a better life for their progeny.


  • This time, the matter was not only about the murder but also about the standard of living of the people in this profession.
  • To determine a place of residence for the newly formed panel. 
  •  This has to be done in accordance with Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
  •  How should the scope of Article 21 and its definition of “life” be applied to ensure that sex workers and their descendants have the right to life with dignity?
  •  Whether the accused can be prosecuted under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code?
  •  How can sex workers be rehired, rescued and rehabilitated in secure environments?
  • The issues raised were decided by the Judicial Bench, which was comprised of Judge Markandey Katju and Gyan Sudha Mishra.


Arguments by the prosecution

  • The prosecution presented the facts based on what they believed they saw. 
  • They were supported by an autopsy report providing information on the type of injury and how it occurred. 
  • The report stated that injuries were caused by blows from feet and fists, and 8 out of 11 injuries were sufficient to cause a person’s death.

Arguments by the defendant 

The defence argued that the injury was not caused by the defendant’s bodily harm, but could have been caused by a sustained fall down the stairs.

The person claiming to be a witness was not present during cross-examination and is therefore inadmissible under section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973.

The same reason applies to Raghuvir Singh and Ors. vs. State of Uttarakhand (2019) is cited.

The defence questioned the facts presented by the respondent, citing the absence of any eyewitness testimony from residents or any piece of evidence.

Arguments by the Petitioner

Ms Archana Ramasundaram, additional DIG of the Tamil Nadu Police, argued with the petitioner while dealing with rescued trafficking victims in critical cases.

They had to deal with the fact that management and sex workers had been informed about the rescue operation in advance and had to pay attention to their visits.

The complainant further alleges that with the involvement of traffickers and other similar persons, the girls are forced to work as prostitutes and are threatened in various ways, especially by their families.

As a result, the petitioners argued that unless communication between traffickers, brothel operators, and victims’ families is disrupted, successful rescue efforts will fail and reintegration into society will become more difficult.

Arguments of respondent

The Counsel for the defendants argued that the resources needed to rehabilitate sex trafficking victims should be made immediately available to the commission so that it can carry out its assigned mission.

The council also organizes workshops in big cities like Mumbai, Delhi, and Calcutta, as well as in smaller cities, to enable professionals from different professions to participate in knowledge sharing through different types of training.

He argued that there was a real need to raise funds to hold the conference in Known area of the cities.

The council also stated that the commission’s share of the proceeds would reduce discrimination against prostitutes, improve the reintegration of prostitutes into society, and encourage the participation of more prostitutes to facilitate the involvement of more professionals.

It said it will also be used to print advertisements and publications as part of the campaign.[3]


According to Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, “protection of life and personal liberty” are fundamental rights:[4]

Right to life

Right to personal liberty 

The right to life is considered the “Heart” of fundamental rights. ” The space of the right to life is broader and contains the right to a decent life and the right to health in order to live with dignity. A person should be respected in society and should not be hindered by his or her choices in life, career, gender, caste, religion, etc.


Prostitution is believed to be the oldest profession in the world but our cultivated society doesn’t have the will to accept this because of some narrow-thinking people. We all know that the people who go out to have sexual intercourse in exchange for money but nobody will be going to reveal this before the society because they believe it can cause the respect and reputation they carry among the society.

After 76 years of independence, till now, the law of the land doesn’t recognise prostitution as a profession.

Indian women are often forced or coerced into sex trafficking and prostitution due to extreme poverty or if they prove to be easy victims of traffickers.

For this reason, sexual acts are performed against their will and never for pleasure.

Sex workers are also eligible for equal protection under the law.

Criminal law must be applied equally to all cases based on age and consent.

Police must refrain from intervening or taking criminal action where it is clear that the sex worker is an adult and participating with consent.

There are concerns that police view sex workers differently than other people.

If a sex worker reports a crime, sexual offence or any other type of crime, the police must take it seriously and act in accordance with the law.

Because voluntary sex work is not illegal, only operating a brothel is illegal, sex workers who are victimized during brothel raids should not be arrested, punished, or harassed.

The State Government is directed to conduct surveys in all her ITPA shelter homes so that cases of adult women detained against their will can be verified and processed for release in a timely manner.

It has been noted that police behaviour towards sex workers is often brutal and violent.

A community whose rights are not recognized.

Police and other law enforcement agencies should appreciate the rights of sex workers so that they can also enjoy all the fundamental rights and other rights guaranteed to all citizens in the Constitution.

Police must treat all sex workers with dignity and must not verbally or physically abuse them, use force, or force them to perform sexual acts.


The aforementioned case recognized the rights and dignity of sex workers. They were recognized by law, but it took about 10 years for them to be recognized by law, and for provisions in their favour to be put in place, and it took another 10 years for society to accept them.

This is an example of how certain people are still underprivileged and are just a community, but a voice that is raised will also be heard.

This is a landmark judgment by the Supreme Court regarding the protection of sex workers under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.[5] An illustration of how demons who view sex workers as nothing more than commodities mistreat and murder them. It sends a social message that, in a civilized society, such inhumane acts should not be tolerated. 

This case brings to light the terrible conditions of sex workers, who perform their jobs out of need rather than a sense of enjoyment. They still have the right to live with dignity even though their line of work carries a social stigma.

People who despise prostitution will continue to take advantage of sex workers as long as it is not acknowledged as a legitimate profession by the law. The Supreme Court took Suo moto cognizance in this case, and established some specific guidelines for protecting sex workers’ rights in order to help prevent such horrible crimes. This verdict inspired and sparked a social revolution in addition to shaking the public’s conscience.[6]

Mohd Atif

Faculty of Law, University of Delhi

[1] Jatindra Kumar Das, Human Rights Law and Practices Second Edition 377 (2016).

[2] Monika Jain, Budhadev Karmaskar v. State of West Bengal: Recognizing Sex Work as a Profession, 6 (2) Constitutional Law and Jurisprudence.J, 33-38 (2021).

[3] J Lakshmi Charan, Regulation of Prostitution in India a Study with Special Reference to Sonagachi, Kolkata, West Bengal, April 13, 2018, ISSN 4215-5594.

[4] Criminal Appeal No. 135/2010 (Budhadev Karmaskar vs State of West Bengal) order on 19 May 2022.

[5] Neepa Jani, Article 21 of the Constitution of India and Right to Livelihood, 2 voice of Research.J Sept 2013, ISSN 2277-7733.

[6] Akshay Krishna P, The Rehabilitation of Sex Workers In India with a Special Emphasis upon the Right to Life of an Individual under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, 4 Indian Journal of Law and Legal Research 1, (2023).