Court: Cannot compel adult trafficking victims to abide by anyone’s wishes including family

An adult victim rescued from immoral trafficking cannot be compelled to abide by the wishes of anyone, including her family members, observed a Sessions Court recently, rejecting the plea filed by the brother of two victims, who was seeking their custody.

The Court ordered the two women to be set at liberty after ascertaining whether they wish to stay at the special home they were lodged in. A 30-year-old Rajasthan resident, brother of two victims rescued from Ahmednagar in 2017, had filed a criminal appeal seeking their custody from a special home in Chembur.

In his petition, he stated that his sisters were adults and not minors as was initially claimed and they were “wrongfully detained”.

In order passed in Dec 2018, Child Welfare Committee (CWC) directed that they should be lodged in the special home for one year. The brother of the two women filed an appeal against the CWC order.

However, the CWC submitted that the sisters are minors and were found to be involved in prostitution at the behest of their family members, including the brother who sought their custody.

The CWC stated that the sisters were likely to be trafficked again if they returned to their family members, who have been previously booked in similar cases.

The Sessions Court said according to an ossification test of the two victims, conducted on Dec 2018, to determine their age, the age of the younger among the two was found between 17 & 18 years and that of the elder’s between 18 & 19.

The Court held that, according to the test, even with the margin of error, they are both adults now. The Court said according to a recent order by the Bombay High Court, a major victim has the fundamental right to move according to her wishes.

“Since the victims in this case are found to be major, there remains no option but to set them free,” the Court said.

The Court said the birth certificates submitted by the brother “are extremely suspicious” with numerous discrepancies such as different mothers’ names and dates of birth. The Court said the brother had offered no explanation to justify the discrepancies.

It held that the family being booked in previous cases, it will not be proper to let the man have their custody. “Even otherwise, the victims being major are entitled to choose their way and destination and they cannot be compelled to abide by the wishes of anyone, including their family,” the Court said.

However, the court also modified the CWC order, which had directed them to remain in the special home for one year, stating that they can be released according to their wishes.

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