A Delhi court on Wednesday sentenced Geeta Arora alias Sonu Punjaban to 24 years imprisonment for immoral trafficking of a 12-year old girl, saying a person who does such horrific and terrible acts has no right to live in a civilized society.
Punjaban engaged in flesh trade in the early 2000s. She operated an organised gang which comprised of aspiring models who turned escorts for clients across Delhi, Rajasthan and Punjab, besides Kolkata and Mumbai.
According to a report by India Today, Sonu’s security guards would accompany the girls on trips arranged out of town. She was the boss of a strong network that involved high-profile businessmen, dreaded gangsters and associates in police and politics. It is said, that these mighty connections helped her evade law for the longest time.
She (Punjaban) forcibly administered drugs to the victim so that she could not resist a customer (man), who would sexually exploit her. She applied chilli powder on the breast of the victim and also put it into her mouth in order to create fear in her mind that she should act as per her wishes otherwise be ready to face brutality.
The report further states that she took upon trafficking after marrying gangster Vijay Singh, who was killed in 2003 during an encounter by Uttar Pradesh Special Task Force (STF).
Punjaban found solace in a man who went by the name Deepak. However, he was also shot dead by police in Assam. It was Deepak’s brother Hemant Sonu who supported her and eventually got married.
Punjaban then took the name of her husband Sonu, who was also gunned down in an encounter with the Special Cell at the Delhi-Gurugram border.
According the Punjaban’s rap sheet, she was first arrested in 2007 for immoral trafficking prevention. She has been arrested multiple times and was eventually booked under Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) in 2011. It was 2017 that she was arrested for one last time, which landed her in Tihar Jail.
On July 16, 2020, Sonu was admitted in hospital after she consumed an overdose of medicines.
She consumed an excess amount of pills meant for headache that she might be collecting for some time. After consuming the medicine she complained of uneasiness and was subsequently admitted to the dispensary situated within the jail premises.
On July 22, Additional Sessions Judge Pritam Singh sentenced Geeta Arora alias Sonu Punjaban to jail terms of 14 years for offences under the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act and 10 years for other offences under the Indian Penal Code, including selling and buying of a minor girl for prostitution and criminal conspiracy, which will run separately.
“The convict Geeta Arora alias Sonu Punjaban shall first undergo 14 years rigorous imprisonment for offence under sections of Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, thereafter to undergo 10 years rigorous imprisonment for offences under sections 366A (procuration of minor girl), 372 (selling minor for purpose of prostitution), 373 (buying minor for purpose of prostitution), 328 (causing hurt by means of poison), 342 (wrongful confinement), 120B (criminal conspiracy) of IPC.
“Hence, the convict shall remain in custody (jail) for a total of 24 years as substantive sentence,” the court said.
The court also sentenced co-accused Sandeep Bedwal to 20 years rigorous imprisonment for kidnapping, raping and selling the minor girl for prostitution.
It added that Bedwal shall undergo 10 years rigorous imprisonment for offence under section 363 (kidnapping), 366 (kidnapping, abducting or inducing woman to compel her marriage), 366A, 372, 120B of IPC and thereafter, he will undergo 10 years rigorous imprisonment for commission of offence under section 376 (rape) IPC.
“Hence, the convict Sandeep Bedwal shall remain in custody (jail) for a total period of 20 years as substantive sentence,” the court said.
The court further imposed fines of Rs 64,000 and Rs 65,000 on Punjaban and Bedwal, respectively.
It also directed the Delhi Legal Services Authority to pay a compensation of Rs 7 lakh to the girl.
“It is well known that the victim of sexual offences not only faces mental and physical trauma but also subjected to social stigma and in most cases they have to change their residence which also causes financial losses to the victim or her family,” it said in its order.
The court said that children were the future of a country and the future of a country depended on how it treated its children.
"In India thousands of children are kidnapped every year. Very few of them are recovered. Minor girls are kidnapped on the pretext of marriage to be sold in the flesh trade industry where they are sexually exploited on a daily basis.
"The subject case was also one of those cases where a minor innocent girl was trapped in the name of love and kidnapped in a pre-planned manner to force her into flesh trade," the court said.
It further said that Punjaban had not only purchased the victim for prostitution but also brutalised her to make her surrender to her demands and had forcibly administered drugs to her.
“The modesty of a woman is next to her soul. How a woman can outrage and brutalise the modesty of another woman, who is a minor, in such a horrific way. The shameful deeds of convict Punjaban deprived her of any leniency from the courts.
"She (Punjaban) forcibly administered drugs to the victim so that she could not resist a customer (man), who would sexually exploit her. She applied chilli powder on the breast of the victim and also put it into her mouth in order to create fear in her mind that she should act as per her wishes otherwise be ready to face brutality," the court observed in its order.
“A person, irrespective of gender, who does such horrific and terrible acts, has no right to live in civilized society and for her the best place to live is the four boundaries of the jail. Punjaban crossed all the limits to be called a woman and deserved the severest punishment provided under the law,” the court noted.
The court had on July 16 convicted Punjaban for the offences under IPC sections 366A, 372, 373, 328, 370, 342, 120B, and relevant sections of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act.
It had also convicted Bedwal under sections 363, 366, 366A, 372, 120B, 376 and 370 (buying or disposing of any person as a slave) of IPC.
The 12-year-old victim was kidnapped by Sandeep Bedwal on September 11, 2009 and was sold and re-sold to a score of people, including Sonu Punjaban, for the purpose of prostitution.
According to the prosecution, Sonu Punjaban used to administer drugs into the body of the victim to make it "more suitable for prostitution" and used to charge Rs 1,500 from the customers.
Five years after the case was registered, the victim came to the police station to record her statement, in which she claimed that she was kidnapped by convict Bedwal after he confessed his love to her.
The victim divulged that Bedwal took her to the house of one Seema Aunty on the pretext of marriage and raped her. From there, the chain of selling and re-selling her for flesh trade began.
The minor girl was then sold four times by different people and eventually ended up with Sonu Punjaban, who after using her for prostitution, sold her to three men. Following this, one of the men named Satpal married her.
"On February 7, 2014, the victim left the house of Satpal and on February 9 came to Police Station Najafgarh and on her statement an FIR was registered," the court said. Sonu Punjaban was then arrested in December 2017 and the charge sheet was filed in March 2018.
With inputs from Agencies