Mumbai: Observing that the fundamental rights of citizens are paramount, the Bombay High Court has held that an adult rescued from trafficking or a prostitution racket, cannot be forced to live in a correction home against their wishes, as it infringes on their fundamental rights to move freely within India. The HC delivered this ruling while releasing a 22-year-old woman from a correction home.

A bench of Justice Sambhaji Shinde ordered the release of the woman who had been rescued by Pandharpur Police from a prostitution racket last year. After being rescued, the woman was sent to a government-run correction home for rehabilitation by a Magistrate court, whose orders were confirmed by a Sessions court. However, the orders were challenged by another woman, who was not the survivor’s mother, but had raised her like she was her own.

Both the courts, however, refused her request and sought the custody of the survivor. Accordingly, she petitioned the bench of Justice Shinde, arguing that since the survivor was an adult, she could not be forced to live in the correction home, against her wishes.

The woman further argued that the survivor was the mother of a one-and-a-half-year-old child and thus, she could not be forced to live away from her child and family.

Though Justice Shinde was convinced by the woman's arguments, he refused to grant her custody of the survivor. The judge said the survivor was free to live anywhere but restrained her from residing with the petitioner.

Releasing the survivor, Justice Shinde said, “Indisputably the victim is an adult woman, therefore it is imperative to consider her wishes. There is no doubt that the government has powers under law, to seek orders from a court to send the victim to a corrective home, keeping in mind, her interest and welfare.”

“It is true that the fundamental rights conferred upon the citizens of India are with reasonable restrictions but these rights stand on a higher pedestal vis-a-vis statutory right or any other rights conferred by the general law,” Justice Shinde said.

The court accordingly accepted the arguments of the woman, who claimed to be a guardian of the survivor. “I find considerable force in the submission that the victim being major, her fundamental right to move from one place to another place, reside at the place of her choice and to chose her vocation has to be considered, and contrary to her wishes, she cannot be asked to reside in the corrective institution,” Justice Shinde held.

“However, it needs to be mentioned at this stage that it is found that the petitioner woman, is not the real mother of the victim and she is an adult, therefore, no restrictions can be put upon the victim by giving her custody to the petitioner woman. Thus, the victim is free to move as per her wish,” Justice Shinde said.

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