In a significant ruling, the Bombay High Court on Thursday held that there is no provision of law that makes prostitution a criminal offense or penalizes a person who indulges in prostitution. The HC also held that an adult woman has the fundamental right to choose her profession and cannot be forced to live in a correction home.
A bench of Justice Prithviraj Chavan pronounced the judgment while setting free three women from detention centres.
While ordering their release, Justice Chavan said, "There is no provision under any law which makes prostitution per se a criminal offence or punishes a person because s/he indulges in prostitution."
The judge further said that the law only penalizes sexual exploitation or abuse of a person for "commercial purpose" and to earn the bread thereby, except where a person is carrying on prostitution in a public place.
The judge also noted the fundamental right to move freely throughout the country and to choose a profession. "The victims being major, their fundamental rights to move from one place to another place or to reside at a place of their choice and choose their vocation has to be considered."
"They cannot be subjected to unnecessary detention contrary to their wish and should be asked to reside in the corrective institution," Justice Chavan held.