New Delhi: Holding that "right to live
with dignity" is a Constitutional right, the Supreme Court
on Tuesday directed the Centre, States and UTs to carry out a
comprehensive survey to determine the number of sex workers in
the country who are willing for rehabilitation.
A bench of justices Markandeya Katju and Gyan Sudha
Mishra in an order also directed the Centre and States to file
affidavits within two weeks on suggestions and recommendations
for improving the lot of sex workers.
It constituted a panel comprising senior advocates and
NGOs to assist the court in monitoring the rehabilitation work
of the sex workers.
"We may reiterate that this exercise has been done by
us because the word "life" in Article 21 of the Constitution
of India has been interpreted in several decisions of this
Court to mean a right to `life with dignity`
"It is only if a sex worker is able to earn a
livelihood through technical skills rather than by selling her
body that she can live with dignity, and that is why we have
requested all the States and the Union of India to submit
schemes for giving technical training to these sex workers,"
the bench said.
The apex court passed the direction while dealing with
a petition relating to plight of sex workers in which the
bench had appointed senior counsel Jayant Bhushan as an amicus
"We further add that the affidavits which will be
filed on behalf of several States and on behalf of the Union
of India should focus on the implementation of the suggestions
as we are acutely conscious that affidavits merely indicating
and suggesting that States and the Union of India are doing
enough would not be sufficient for the cause for which this
matter has been taken up," the bench said.
"We, therefore, suggest that the States, Union
Territories and the Union of India should highlight
suggestions for implementation of the programmes and the
schemes which might have been formulated, and come out with
concrete suggestions in this regard," the bench said.
Senior counsel Anand Grover, appearing for Usha
Multipurpose Co-operative Society and Durbar Mahila Samanwaya
Committee, suggested that in order to provide proper
rehabilitation, it was necessary to carry out a survey for
ascertaining how many sex workers are in its favour.
Amicus curiae Bhushan had submitted a three-point
recommendation for "Prevention of trafficking, rehabilitation
of sex workers who wish to leave sex work` and conditions
conducive for sex workers who wish to continue working as sex
workers with dignity."
"These aspects may be studied by the panel and they
may make suitable suggestions to the court,the bench said,
while constituting the panel.
Pradip Ghosh, senior counsel, will be the chairman of
the panel and the other members are Bhushan and
representatives from the two organisations.
"All States, union territories and Union of India
shall co-operate with this panel so that it can perform the
functions effectively. The States and the Central Governments
will attend the meetings to be fixed by the Chairman of the
Panel from time to time, the bench said.
The apex court said the Centre would allot suitable
accommodation and necessary infrastructure for the panel in
Delhi and .
It said the panel would initially focus on metros
like Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Mumbai as the problem of sex
workers is more acute and on a much larger scales in these