The Karnataka High Court has quashed a criminal case against a 31-year-old website designer, who was arrayed as a co-accused in the case alleging him of developing a website which was used for soliciting customers for prostitution.
Justice Ashok G Nijagannavar allowed the petition filed by Gavin Mendes and quashed the case registered against him for offences punishable under Sections 4, 5 & 7 of the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, Sections 370, 370 A (2), 292 of IPC, 67 of Information Technology Act and Section 14 of Foreigners Act.
As per the prosecution case on February 7, 2014, the police received credible information about illegal activities regarding prostitution by supplying foreign and Indian girls by contacting customers through international website. The said information was confirmed by sending a decoy. Thereafter, on 08.02.2014, the persons involved in the said activities were called through decoy for supply of foreign girls. The police raided the apartment and arrested three accused namely two girls and a man who had supplied the said girls to the decoy. On the information given by the accused No.1, it is learnt that he has solicited the customers through E.Mail I.D and a website designed by the accused Mendes.
The petitioner is a resident of Panaji, Goa and he is a professional software Engineer and a software developer. In view of the order placed by co-accused the petitioner has designed the website and delivered it to him online for which he has been paid the professional charges directly to the petitioner's account. Thus, the petitioner had no direct contact whatsoever with accused No.1 and he has never met him in-person. In addition to that, the petitioner had no knowledge as to for what purpose the said website was used by the accused. The name of the petitioner is not found in the FIR, but he has been arrayed as accused No.4 in the chargesheet.
Accused Nos.1 to 3 have made use of the website designed by accused No.4 for committing wrongful acts of prostitution to make illegal gains, thereby, the accused No.4 has facilitated the accused Nos.1 to 3 and has also colluded with them. As such, there are no valid grounds for quashing the proceedings or the chargesheet.
The court said "On perusal of the chargesheet records, no prima facie material is found to prove the involvement of the petitioner in commission of the offence alleged against him."
The court also took into consideration that co-accused who have faced the trial in the case have been acquitted by the sessions court. It noted "Unless the chargesheet records reveal that the petitioner has actively involved with other accused in immoral trafficking or use of foreign girls by accused No.4, for the said purpose by specifically designing the website for them, the proceedings cannot be allowed to be continued against him. As such, the proceeding deserves to be quashed as per the parameters laid down by the Supreme Court in the case of State of Haryana v. Bhajan Lal."
Case Title: GAVIN MENDES And STATE OF KARNATAKA,
Case No: CRIMINAL PETITION NO.1625 OF 2016
Coram: Justice ASHOK G. NIJAGANNAVAR
Appearance: Advocate ASHOK PATIL for petitioner.
Advocate MAHESH SHETTY, for State.