Four sex workers from the capital's G.B. Road red light area have challenged a government eviction order against them in the Delhi High Court, which has restrained police from taking any action, for now.
The eviction order was issued by the sub-divisional magistrate (SDM), Paharganj, under the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 (ITPA).
"The orders passed by the SDM, directing our eviction from our residential premises without providing us an opportunity of being heard is thus invalid and bad in law and should be quashed immediately," said the sex workers.
A division bench of Acting Chief Justice A.K. Sikri and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw Wednesday heard the plea and asked police not to evict them from their place in central Delhi, and posted the matter for July 30.
The petitioner sex workers sought the court's direction to declare section 18 of the act as unconstitutional.
The petition said: "The section 18 of the ITPA mandates the closure of alleged brothels and eviction of alleged occupants from the premises without providing any rehabilitation or alternative location to settle down."
The four women in their plea said that the Delhi government had not framed any rules relating to section 18 of the act and had not laid down any statutory guidelines on the same.
The petition said: "There is thus no legislative guidance on the implementation of section 18 of the act. In the absence of the same, absolute discretion is vested on the police administration to follow any procedure. This has resulted in arbitrariness in action and abuse of power and authority... this violates article 14 (equality) of the constitution."
Seeking quashing of the eviction order, the women claimed that they had been staying in the area for decades and not involved in business of running any brothel but under the garb of section 18 of act, the SDM July 21 ordered their eviction.
"The act never intended to penalise prostitution per se, except in public places or to punish the prostitute herself but aimed at curbing commercialised or organised prostitution," the petition said.
"It neither criminalised prostitutes' own earnings nor did it prohibit a prostitute from carrying on prostitution from his/her own residence if she was carrying out on her/his own," the petition said.
The SDM order followed allegation that the petitioners' houses were being used as brothels and were within a distance of 200 metre of a school and required closure and eviction of the occupants from the premises as per the act.