Human Trafficking of Minors - Section 372

Human Trafficking of Minors - Section 372

Human Trafficking or Sex Trade has been a very heinous and immoral form of organized crime. As we know globalization is a double-edged weapon, it has indeed globalized the practice of Human Trafficking.

The International Organization for Migration estimations says that the global trafficking industry generates more than $10 billion each year from this human trafficking or prostitution.

In this regard, there has been an International Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Women and Children (1921), but the demand and supply chain of Flesh Trade has never been compromised and it has ruthlessly driven the trafficking industry.

Some key factors behind this are inadequate employment opportunities, lack of social security, globalization, feminization of poverty, and rise in sex tourism, and so on. But, the failure of administration has an edge over all such factors.

The scenario of India is also very disheartening because India serves as a source country, transit center, and destination country for Human Trafficking, and here thousands of women and girls are trafficked and exploited in this horrible and unfortunate flesh trade every year. 

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Research by the End Children's Prostitution in Asian Tourism, 1991, had estimated that in every 100 prostitutes, 20 are minor girls who are being exploited as prostitutes in India.

According to Indian Constitution, Article 23 prohibits trafficking in human beings and all forms of forced labour. The Directive Principles enlisted in Article 39 (e) and (k) declare that state policy should be directed towards protecting childhood and youth "against exploitation and material abandonment".

There have been specific legislation in this regard to prevent such trafficking. Also, there have been several provisions like Sec. 372, 373 .... in the Indian Penal Code, which identifies all such incidences of Human Trafficking as a cognizable offence and tends to discourage it by punishing the offenders.

What is section 372 of IPC?

Section 372 is one of the provisions of the Indian Penal Code which deals with the instances of Trafficking of Minor Girls below the age of eighteen years for the purpose of prostitution, or illicit intercourse, or other unlawful and immoral purposes.

It is considered as one of the heinous crimes against a human body. Section 372 of IPC provides as below:

Any person who sells, lends, or disposes of any minor child, with an intention to push that child for prostitution, illicit intercourse, or any unlawful and immoral purpose, shall be held guilty under this section and would be punished with imprisonment up to 10 years, accompanied by fine.

The important ingredients of section 372 is:

  1. A person selling, lending, or disposing of any other person.

  2. The person who is being subjected to sale, lent or disposal is a minor child.

  3. Such selling, lending, or disposing of has been done with an intention to force that child into prostitution, illicit intercourse, or any unlawful or immoral purpose.

So, this provision provides for the protection of the chastity of girls, which applies to both married and unmarried female minors irrespective of any other indifference like caste or community.

To put it short, the crux of this section is to punish the offenders behind the intentional and conscious exposure of a minor to the danger of degradation.

Is IPC 372 a cognizable offence?

The offence u/s 372 is a cognizable offence, and hence a police officer can arrest the accused without the warrant of court.

Is IPC 372 bailable?

As per schedule 1 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the offence u/s 372 of IPC is a non-bailable offence. Hence, it has been also put in the category of Non-Compoundable offences.

How to file a case under Sec. 372 of IPC?

Whenever there is an instance of sale of a minor girl for any purpose as illustrated u/s 372 IPC, the case may be brought against the accused.

The case may be filed in conditions which have been given below:

  1. When a police officer witnesses any such trafficking, then he may suo moto frame the charge and institute an FIR u/s 372 of IPC.

  2. When the victim or his relatives himself approaches the police station or police officer to register an FIR.

  3. When the victim or his relative registers a complaint to the Magistrate.

  4. When a person in pro bono approaches any court of law and an order is passed in this regard by an honorable court.

  5. When a court of law takes suo moto cognizance over any such incidence.

How to defend a case under Sec. 372 of IPC?

When someone is charged with offences u/s 372 IPC or is accused of the provisions u/s 372 IPC, then it is advised that he/she shall hire an expert lawyer who has experience in dealing with such cases, because the offences u/s 372 are cognizable, non-bailable, non-compoundable and of serious nature. 

The punishment u/s 372 is up to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment accompanied by a fine.

Also, at the trial in a court of law, an expert lawyer would strive to defend your case and would for sure benefit you, either by getting an acquittal order in your favor or by reducing your punishment.

The important points to remember while defending the case u/s 372 of IPC, which may get you the judgment in your favor is given below:

  1. The act of sale of a minor girl is not punishable u/s 372, without proof of one of the intentions mentioned in section 372, IPC. 

  2. Section 372 of IPC applies only if the girl subjected to sale is a minor as per the law of India. So, if any girl is found to be major under the law, then this section will not apply.

  3. To sell an unmarried Hindu girl for the purpose of her being married is not an offence under this section.

What is Punishment  u/s 372 of IPC?

When the offences u/s 372 of IPC are proved against an accused, then the punishment of imprisonment can be given, which may be extended up to a term of 10 years. The imprisonment is also accompanied by a fine.

However, when the offences u/s 372 of IPC is not proved due to the age of the victim, then the convicts would be punished with lesser punishment.

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Important Judgements

Bhola Nath & Another vs State 

The fact of the case: One day the police received information through their informer regarding the buying and selling of minor children. The police raided and found two accused along with two minor girls (14 and 11 years) and one minor boy (13 years). The children also told the police that the accused had taken them for the purpose of sale. Subsequently, the trial begins and after analyzing the evidence on record, the Additional Sessions Judge, Haridwar vide judgment and order dated 15.5.1998 found the accused guilty u/s 372, and sentenced the accused to undergo rigorous imprisonment for two and half years along with a fine of Rs. 1000.

Later, an appeal was preferred to the High Court. The High Court rejected the appeal and upheld the conviction and sentence awarded by Session Court.

Padam Prashad Upadhyaya vs Emperor | AIR 1929 Cal 617: Padam was an accused under Section 372, I.P.C., on the charge of selling, Rajkumari (a minor girl) for the purpose of prostitution. However, he was acquitted by the court of session judge on showing the girl's majority certificate.

He was subsequently charged at the High Court of Judicature, for dishonestly using and abetting the use of a forged birth certificate which purported to show that the victim was over 18 years of age and is a major.

His defense pleaded that he was unaware of the fact that the birth certificate was forged. But, lastly the court found him guilty u/s 372 IPC and withheld the decision of the Session Court.

Queen-Empress vs Basava | (1881) 1 Weir 359, FB: In this case, it was held by the court that, the dedication of minors to the services of a temple as dasi (servants) amounts to disposal of such minors, knowing it to be likely that they will be used for the purpose of prostitution and hence it attracts the provisions under this section.

Lal Singh vs State | AIR 1954 HP 43: It was observed by the honorable court that, “selling an unmarried Hindu girl for the purpose of her being married, is not an offence under this section, though it may be punished under some other sections of this law."

This article on IPC Section 372 was drafted by Mr. Kumar Sonal, BA LLB, 5th-year student, Central University of South Bihar (CUSB)
Offence Punishment Cognizance Bail Triable By
Human Trafficking of Minors Imprisonement of 10 years or more with fine Cognizable Non-Bailable Any Magistrate
Offence Human Trafficking of Minors
Punishment Imprisonement of 10 years or more with fine
Cognizance Cognizable
Bail Non-Bailable
Triable By Any Magistrate


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