Sex racket cases: How MCOCA failed in the past

The Delhi Police Crime Branch slapping provisions of the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) on Affaq Husain, the alleged kingpin of the biggest sex trade syndicate of G.B. Road, and his accomplices has been welcomed by activists, but history suggests that the charges have not withstood judicial scrutiny in the past.

The police had booked Sonu Punjaban and Kanwaljit Singh – both alleged pimps and involved in flesh trade– for alleged violation of MCOCA, but both were subsequently acquitted, and on both occasions, due to the police’s inability to produce evidence.

Big business

The difference in the nature of trade is that while Punjaban and Singh dealt in high-profile escorts, Affaq and gang, wife Saira included, run brothels.

Kanwaljit’s business, in particular, flourished in a big way as he had a monopoly due to his vast network among escorts. His clients were far more influential than that of Affaq’s, which provided him protection for years.

“The difference in scale was huge, but the kind of money he charged was exorbitant. He would bring women from across the country, especially Mumbai, where he would often go. Even in the mid-90s he was charging Rs. 20,000 for one girl per night,” said a police officer who has served in both the Crime Branch and the Special Cell, and was instrumental in Kanwaljit’s arrest in 1997.

Sonu Punjaban’s case, added the officer, was also one involving high-profile escorts, but its volume of money was modest in comparison. When she was arrested in 2011, she even purportedly admitted to have been indulged in sex trade. However, that did not help the police establish that she was running an organised racket. The case eventually fell in 2014 when a special court observed that prosecution had “failed to produce any concrete evidence against Punjaban that substantiated the allegation of her running an organised sex racket”.

Unravelling MCOCA

Senior lawyer M.S. Khan said in MCOCA cases there were lot of technicalities involved and only two provisions are punishable. “This includes at least two cases where the accused have been charge-sheeted for the offence which has been cited as repeated in the present case and a court having taken cognisance of the same.”

A senior police officer added that the present case was different as both Kanwaljit and Sonu Punjaban had been booked under the Immoral Trafficking Act, whereas the G.B. Road couple faces charges of abduction and trafficking as well.

Also, while the element of coercion was negligible in Kanwaljit’s case, almost all the trafficked women in the present case were either pushed into the trade or not allowed to leave when they wanted.

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Printable version | Oct 14, 2021 10:56:25 PM |

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