In a landmark decision, the District and Sessions Court in North Karnataka’s Bellary district sentenced 39 of the 87 accused, convicted for human trafficking, to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment.
A penalty of Rs 2.47 lakh has also been levied on the convicts and an additional two years of imprisonment will be imposed if the payment is defaulted.
The first additional district and sessions judge, V H Dharwadkar upheld the case and convicted the 39 accused for kidnapping, procuring minors, importation of girls from a foreign country, wrongful confinement, trafficking persons, exploitation of trafficked persons, selling for prostitution and buying minors for prostitution. They were also convicted under sections 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9 of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 (ITPA) and sections 3 and 4 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO).
“The remaining 48 persons, who have been charged with selling girls, including 21 minors, are being tried in three separate cases,” said Adrian Phillips of Justice and Care.
In August 2013, the police rescued 43 victims from brothels in Bellary after being tipped-off by anti-human trafficking NGO Justice and Care.
After several rescue operations in Bellary’s DC Nagar area, the police arrested 51 of the 87 involved in the racket, while the remaining 36 accused have been at large.
The police had also seized Rs 4.59 lakh in cash, accounts books, condoms, tokens and garments from the sites where the raids were conducted. Seven of the rescued survivors were from Bangladesh and the rest from Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, West Bengal, Karnataka and Odisha.
“During the operation, 43 victims were rescued from the brothels of which 21 were minors. At every stage of the trial, which was finally done against the 51 accused, all the victims testified bringing out the most important and fundamental details of the criminal network and their modus operandi,” said Rathod Ramsingh, Special Public Prosecutor (PP).
Human trafficking and forced prostitution are not only illegal but are crimes that inflict terrible physical and emotional pain and scar victims for life. A verdict such as this helps create deterrence and lets perpetrators know that they cannot go unpunished, said Advocate Adrian Phillips of Justice and Care.