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A Glance at Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956

Human trafficking is known as the trafficking of a person. Trafficking is for exploitation that involves illegal transportation of an individual by deception for labour, sexual exploitation, or any other activity benefitting others.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) defines human trafficking as the act to gather, moving, receiving or keeping human beings by threat, force or coercion or deception to exploit them.

A person of any age or gender brought against his will without information is immoral trafficking. A person coerced by the superior or a person in power becomes a victim considered as trafficked.

To protect humans from being trafficked and exploited, Indian legislators enacted the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956. The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956, is also popularly known as PITA Act which provides the provision for immoral traffic and prevention. The act got enacted in pursuance of the International Convention signed in New York on 9th May 1950.

History of prevention of traffic laws in India

The Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Children Act got enacted in 1956. The act got as India was a signatory to the United Nations International Convention for “Suppression of Traffic in Persons and the Exploitation of Others” of 1950.

The Suppression of Immoral Trafficking in Women and Children Act, 1950 was also popularly known as SITA Act. The Suppression of Immoral Trafficking in Women and Children Act, 1956 was amended twice in—1978 and 1986.

The amendment of 1978 was to enhance the punishment for offences in the act. Further, the amendment in 1986 was to change the name of the act from Suppression of Immoral Trafficking in Women and Children Act, 1956 to The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956.

Causes of Immoral Trafficking

The causes of Immoral trafficking are:

  • Unemployment
  • Poverty
  • Absence of Social Safety
  • Political Instability
  • Violence against women and children
  • Demand for prostitution
  • Demand for cheap labour

Who can get Trafficked

Following persons can get trafficked

  • Women and children
  • People of low income
  • Uneducated people
  • Young girls who run away from home
  • People with a lack of legal awareness

Reasons for immoral trafficking

Following are the reasons for immoral trafficking:

  • For Prostitution
  • Forced Labour
  • Drug Trafficking
  • Begging
  • Illegal Adoption of children
  • Organ Transplants
  • Forced Marriage
  • Domestic Works

Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956

The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956, came into force on 1st May 1958 and applied to the whole India. The Act makes the sexual exploitation of male and females a cognisable offence.

The objective of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956

The fact that prostitution destroys the moral values of a society cannot be denied. There are many causes and effects of prostitution. The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 does not abolish prostitution, and it does not provide any provision making prostitution a criminal offence. The act even does not punish a person indulging in prostitution.

The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 provides punishment for only those activities that exploit or abuse a person for commercial purposes.

Definition under Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956

  • Brothel: Section 2(a) states that Brothel includes a house, room, conveyance, place or portion of the house, room, conveyance or place for sexual exploitation or abuse for the gain of another person or mutual gain of two or more prostitutes.
  • Child: Section 2(aa) defines a child as a person who has not attained the age of sixteen years.
  • Major: Section 2(ca) of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956, defines a major as a person who has attained the age of eighteen years.
  • Minor: Section 2(cb) of the act defines a minor as a person who has completed sixteen years of age but has not attained the age of eighteen years.
  • Prostitution: Section 2(f) defines prostitution as the sexual exploitation or abusing a person for commercial purposes.
  • Public Place: Section 2(h) defines a public place as intended to use or accessed by the public, including public conveyance.

Special Police Officer

A Special Police Officer is an officer appointed by the state government to discharge police duties in an area. The person appointed as a special police officer should be above the rank of the sub-inspector of the police.

The District Magistrate has the power to appoint a retired military or police officer at the time of his retirement and vest him with the same power as a special police officer. The person appointed by the district magistrate should be above the rank of sub-inspector or the commissioned officer.

The Central Government has the power to appoint a ‘trafficking police officer’ to deal with an offence related to the sexual exploitation of a person. Trafficking officers can investigate any offence related to sexual offences and investigate offences related to the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act or any other law. They get entrusted with the powers of the Special Police Officers.

Powers of Special Police Officer

The powers entrusted to the Special Police Officers are:

  • A special police officer can arrest a person without a warrant.
  • The special police officer has the power to search premises without a warrant under section 15 of the PITA Act. However, the Officers must have the reason to believe that securing a warrant will cause undue delay and may destruct evidence.

While searching the property, the officer must take at least two women along with him. Also, he needs to call two reputed neighbours where the search needs to be conducted. Among the two residents, there shall be at least one woman. A medical examination of the offender is compulsory.

Punishment under PITA Act

Section 3 to 9 of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 provide punishment for the offence provided by the Act. The offences punishable under the PITA Act are keeping and using premises for a brothel, living on income earned by prostitution, pimping or soliciting for prostitution, seducing a person in custody and prostitution in the public area.

Section 3 of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956, provides punishment for keeping a brothel or allowing premises to be used as a brothel.

As per the section, the person who keeps or permits to use the premises as a brothel shall get rigorous imprisonment.

  • The manager who manages the brothel shall get punished with imprisonment of one to three years with a fine which may extend to 2000 for a first conviction.
  • The punishment shall be between two to five years for subsequent conviction with a fine that may extend to 2000 rupees.
  • The owner, tenant, lessor or lessee shall be punished with at least two years with a fine of 2000 rupees on first conviction. The punishment can get enhanced to five years with a fine for a subsequent conviction.

Section 4 of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 provides Punishment for Living on earning from prostitution.

  • According to this section, the person who lives his life with money earned by prostitution should get punished with two years of imprisonment or a fine that may extend to 1000 rupees.
  • If the amount is earned by prostituting a child or a minor, seven years imprisonment may extend to ten years.

Section 5 of the Act provides Punishment for procuring, inducing or taking a person for the sake of prostitution.

The offence of procuring, inducing or taking a person for prostitution gets committed when a person procures or induces another person to go to any other place with the intention that such person becomes an inmate of a brothel.

  • The punishment in the said case is rigorous imprisonment of 3 to 7 years with a fine of Rupees 2000.
  • When the action gets done against the person’s will or is minor, the imprisonment may be between 3 to 7 years.
  • If the offence involves a child, the imprisonment can extend to life imprisonment.

Section 6 of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 provides punishment for detaining a person on premises where prostitution is carried on.

This section provides punishment for detaining a person in a brothel or prostitution.

  • The person committing such offence can get punished with imprisonment, extending to seven to ten years with a fine.
  • If the court provides less punishment than seven years, the court should record a special reason for the same.

Section 7 of the Act provides punishment for prostitution in the vicinity of a public place.

According to this section, prostitution gets barred from carrying on in a certain area.

  • Violation of the provision of this act may lead to imprisonment of three months with a fine of Rs 200 for a first conviction.
  • The punishment in the said case increases from seven to ten years if the offence gets committed with a child or minor. On awarding punishment of fewer than seven years, the reason for the same gets recorded in the judgement.
  • This section also prohibits the lessor lessee, tenant, landlord, including the keeper of the public place like hotel etc. in public vicinity. The punishment, in this case, is of three months with a fine of two hundred rupees for a first conviction.
  • In a subsequent conviction, the punishment may extend to six months with a fine.
  • The hotel’s license can also get cancelled if prostitution is carried on in a hotel for at least three months which may extend to one year. When the child or a minor is found as a prostitute in the hotel, the hotel’s license gets cancelled permanently.

Section 8 of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 provides Punishment for seducing or soliciting prostitution.

  • Seduction in public areas or a place visible from a public place amounts to six months imprisonment with a fine on first conviction.
  • For a subsequent conviction, the imprisonment increases to one year with a fine.

Section 9 of the Act provides Punishment for seducing a person in custody.

  • According to section 9 of the PITA Act, a person in custody shall be punishable with imprisonment of any description for seven years which may extend to life imprisonment with a fine.

Section 11 provides the Address of a previously convicted offender.

  • According to section 11, if an offender gets punished under the Act or Section 363, 365, 366,366A, 366B, 367, 371, 372 or 373 of the Indian Penal Code for imprisonment two or more years.
  • For subsequent conviction under the provision of the PITA Act or any section mentioned above from the Indian Penal Code where imprisonment is two years or more if the court thinks fit the address of the previously convicted offender should get notified to the court.

Trial Procedure

According to section 22 of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956, offences committed under section 3 to section 8 shall get tried by not lower than the Metropolitan Magistrate or a First Class Judicial Magistrate.

Section 22A and Section 22AA empowers the state and the central government to establish special courts. These special courts can get established after consultation with the High Court. The purpose behind setting up such a court is a speedy trial.

Under Section 22B, the state government can direct the magistrate to try cases summarily. When a case is tried summarily, the provision of Section 262 to Section 265 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 applies. An offender tried summarily can only be punished with imprisonment of one year. But, when the magistrate feels that the case cannot be tried summarily, the court can witness and hear or rehear the case.

JJA and PITA

Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 is the law that protects the child in India and guarantees security, protection, education, and well-being. On the other hand, the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956, prevents immoral trafficking and provides that the sexual exploitation of males or females is a cognisable offence.

Both JJA and PITA work to rehabilitate young children who fall victim to exploitation.

Conclusion

The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 is considered positive legislation. But as every coin has two sides, so is the case with this legislation. The drawback of the legislation is that the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 does not address the victim of prostitution but emphasise the perpetrator and provide reformative measures.

The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act neither makes prostitution legal nor makes the act of prostitution illegal. As the act did not abolish prostitution or any other kind of sex work thus, it does not the practice of prostitution individually, independently and voluntarily by women an offence.

FAQs

What do you mean by Prostitution?

Prostitution, in general, means sex trade, where a person is engaged in sexual activity for payment. Section 2(f) of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956, provides that prostitution means sexual exploitation or abuse of a person for commercial purposes.

What is the maximum punishment that can be awarded under the act?

The maximum punishment that can be awarded for an offence committed under the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 is life imprisonment.

Can Prostitution take place in a public place?

Prostitution cannot take place in public places or accessible places by the public as per the provision of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956.

What is the punishment for keeping or managing a brothel?

Punishment on the first conviction of a person involved in a brothel is rigorous imprisonment of one to three years with a fine of two thousand rupees.

About Author

Anshita Surana, born in the year 1999 in Guwahati, Assam and brought up in Hanumangarh, Rajasthan, where I completed my elementary and secondary education from the CBSE board.

Currently, Pursuing B.B.A.LL.B(H) from K. R. Mangalam University, Gurugram.

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