New Delhi: Expressing serious concerns over how some children pushed into prostitution were handed over to their “parents”, the Supreme Court has ordered an inquiry into family backgrounds of 18 minor girls, rescued in Janaury from brothels in Maharashtra's Nandurbar.
The apex court has also sought a report from Maharashtra's Home Secretary, who has been directed to "examine the matter personally and file an affidavit indicating the stand of the state" regarding the quality of probe and their intent to stop cross-border human trafficking for illicit flesh trade.
During the hearing, a bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar observed that it was necessary to do a background check of all the “parents/guardians” who received the custody of girls rescued from the brothels in January.
The court directed the Maharashtra Police and the Child Welfare Committee to make sure all the 18 girls are brought before the Principal District and Sessions Judge, Aurangabad, on October 3 at 2pm.
“The Principal District and Sessions Judge, Aurangabad, is directed to enquire from the minor girls about the particulars of their family, their place of residence and whether they are residing with their parents, etc. and submit a report to this court on or before October 23," directed the bench.
The order was issued after advocate Balaji Srinivasan, appearing for NGO Rescue Foundation, questioned the haste and recklessness in handing back 9 out of 18 minor girls to their so-called parents or guardians.
Srinivasan submitted that the CWC gave the custody of nine rescued girls just a day after they were handed over to the Committee.
The lawyer added there were reasonable apprehensions that the so-called parents or guardians are the ones responsible for trafficking and selling the 9 minor girls to unknown persons.
The court accepted Srinivasan’s statement. It thus ordered: "Having regard to the facts and circumstances of the case, it is just and proper to hold an inquiry as to the family background of all the 18 minor girls out of the sixty one women arrested on 10.01.2017."
The bench will now take up the case on November 14 when along with a report from the judicial officer on family backgrounds of the rescued minor girls, the Home Secretary shall also clarify the stand of the government.
Pune-based Rescue Foundation, which had carried out the raid with the help of the police, has been fighting the legal battle against various orders of subordinate courts whereby minor victims of flesh trade were shunted from one place to another and released to their so called parents or guardians without even bothering about the best interest of the minors.
According to the NGO, these so called guardians were culpable for the misery of the girls and that they will again end up into flesh trade after being handed over.
Rescue Foundation has also sought that CBI take over the investigation, expressing doubts over intent and wherewithal of the local police to act against the crime.