CASE : Buddhadev Karmaskar vs State of West Bengal

Date of the case – 14 February 2011

Judgement of the case – May 2022

Appellant –Buddhadev karmaskar

Respondent – State of West Bengal & ORS

Bench / Judges – Markandey katju ,Gyan sudha misra

Legal  Provision – Constitution of India, Article 14, 19, 21, 142 IPC  – section 302, CRPC –Section 164, 357C

FACTS :

The public’s conscience was shocked when Shrimati Chayay Rani Pal, alias Buri, a 45-year-old sex worker, was brutally murdered on the terrible evening of September 17, 1999, at around 9.15 p.m. in the red light district located on Jogen Dutta Lane. In the red-light district of Kolkata, she resided in a three-story building on Jogen Dutta Lane. Prior to the tragedy, the dead were dozing in front of her room, which was situated close to the stairs on the second level of the building. The accused climbed to the second level, tripped over the corpse, and a heated altercation broke out. The accused, Buddhadev Karmaskar, assaulted the victim and caused extensive bleeding by pounding her with his fists and knees. She fell over after stumbling. She was grabbed by her hair and pulled against the defendant, who then shoved her head against the wall. Consequently, her head, nose, and ear started to bleed. A maid who was on the second floor when the incident took place and was one of the witnesses, Asha Khatun, raised the alarm. The other inmates arrived at the scene of the crime and witnessed the accused viciously beating the victim. The accused pushed and assaulted the witnesses, swiftly abandoned the victim where they were, and fled as soon as a protest was raised. The culprit was taken into custody by the police at roughly 2.15 a.m. on Jogen Dutta Lane five hours after the incident. She was declared deceased when the patient arrived at the hospital.

ISSUES RAISED :

1- What should be done to ensure that sex workers and their offspring have access to the right to live with dignity under Article 21’s scope and its concept of “life”?

2- Can the accused be charged under Indian Penal Code Section 302?

3- What safer methods are there for rehiring, saving, and rehabbing sex workers?

CONTENTION:

Arguments from the Petitioner’s side :

  • All of the prosecutor’s charges were vehemently refuted by the appellant’s knowledgeable attorney.
  • According to Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code of 1973, the learned attorney improperly admitted Asha Khatun’s statement as an eye witness during the chief examination. She also wasn’t there when the witness was being cross-examined.
  • The eminent attorney cited the case of Raghubir Singh v. Uttaranchal High Court as supporting the argument.
  • Additionally, it was made very apparent that no locals were present to witness the incident. This justification succeeds admirably in obscuring the argument brought against the appellant.

Arguments from the Respondent’s side :

  • The skilled attorney for the deceased questioned and asserted that there was tension between the accused and the deceased and that they periodically quarreled.
  • Abeda said that she heard a loud struggle and hurried to the second floor where she saw the accused pulling the deceased and slamming her head against the wall.
  • According to a medical expert’s injury assessment presented by the defense, the accused beat the deceased with both fists and legs.
  • A total of 11 injuries to the body, including wounds to the face, head, and forehead, were reported by the study as having caused the death of the deceased.
  • They added that 8 of the 11 injuries were enough to kill any typical person.

DEFECTS OF LAW:

The case of  Budhadev Karmaskar vs. State of West Bengal challenged the constitutionality of Section 8 of the West Bengal Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act, 1950, which criminalized soliciting and living off the earnings of prostitution.

The case brought to light the vulnerable state of sex workers and the social stigma attached to them. The Supreme Court’s landmark decision recognized sex work as a profession and upheld the right of sex workers to live with dignity.

The defects of the law that were addressed in this case include:

  1. Criminalization of sex work: The law criminalized soliciting and living off the earnings of prostitution, which made it difficult for sex workers to access basic services and live with dignity
  2. Violation of fundamental rights: The law violated the fundamental rights of sex workers, including the right to life, liberty, and equality
  3. Social stigma: The law reinforced the social stigma attached to sex work, which made it difficult for sex workers to access healthcare, education, and other basic services
  4. The Supreme Court’s decision in this case recognized sex work as a profession and provided sex workers with the fundamental rights they were deprived off

The ruling also directed that equal protection of law shall be provided with respect to ‘age’ and ‘consent’, and if any sex worker is a victim of sexual assault, they shall be treated as a victim and the offender shall be punished.

RATIONALE :

The Calcutta High Court denied the appeal in this instance. The petitioner objected that section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973’s exemption from cross-examination, which allowed witness Asha Khatun to testify without being questioned, should not be used to invalidate her testimony taken into consideration, but this was overruled by the court. The High District Court imposed a life sentence on the offender. A group of experienced lawyers and justices was assembled by the Supreme Court in 2011 to investigate measures to safeguard sex workers and their professions. The group is considering measures to make the lives of the impacted women better. The lack of an explanation for why the accused had a wound close to his left eye and the defense’s argument is a total denial upset the court, which also expressed its displeasure.

The SC institution approves of the sex labor sector.

Sexual servitude is not illegal in India. Sexual service providers should be treated with the same respect and be protected by the law as everyone else. This judgment was rendered in this matter by the three-judge panel of the Supreme Court (SC). It is a significant choice. It’s a huge comfort for the sexual service providers who deal with severe exploitation.

In India Paid Sexual Labour is not prohibited:

The Indian Supreme Court has held that when enforcing immoral traffic control laws, the government must take into account everyone’s fundamental right to a decent existence, regardless of vocation.

Human sexual worker rights

Prostitution is not only the oldest job in the world, but it is also the one that society holds in the greatest respect. Sex workers in particular are viewed as the weed that needs to be eliminated. “The judiciary has repeatedly stepped in to defend the fundamental rights guaranteed by Part III of the Constitution in the absence of legislation and negligent performance by the executive branch.”

Apparently, reports, “Police enforcement regularly treats sex workers violently and hostilely. As if they are a member of an unacknowledged group whose rights are disregarded.”Law enforcement agencies, including the police organizations should be instructed to respect the rights of all sex workers, which are equally guaranteed by the constitution as those of every other citizen.

INFERENCE :

It is time to realize that criminalizing prostitution-related activities and eliminating prostitution workers won’t improve their situation; rather, prostitution won’t be recognized by the law, forcing people to work in secret and subjecting them to abuse under any circumstances. Since Rehiring those who have been exploited in the sex industry, whether they are prostitutes, sex workers, or victims of the sex trade, is a matter of right and not of sympathy or privilege. Prostitution won’t be recognised by the law, and there is no legal status that will enable profiting from and righting the wrongs.

This historic decision is a horrific illustration of how sex workers are mistreated and killed by people who view them as nothing more than things. It sends the message that such barbaric behavior is not acceptable in a civilized society. The situation draws attention to the condition of sex workers who are motivated by need rather than by pleasure. They nevertheless have the right to live in dignity even when their occupation bears a social stigma.

Everyone has a fundamental right to life and personal liberty, according to Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. It encompasses more than just the presence of animals. But conservative thinking in society makes this all but impossible.

Sex workers will still exist taken advantage of by people who look down on them as long as prostitution is not legally recognized as an occupation. The Supreme Court took notice of the problem and set guidelines to protect the rights of sex workers in order to assist in stopping such horrible crimes. The ruling inspired and transformed society in addition to shaking the public’s conscience.

Aditi Singh

CMR University School of Legal Studies Bangalore.