A Delhi court on Wednesday sentenced alleged sex racket operator Geeta Arora alias Sonu Punjaban, 35, to 24 years in prison on charges of kidnapping, immoral trafficking, prostitution among other offences for abducting a minor and forcing her into prostitution for four years in 2009.
Stating that Punjaban had ‘crossed all limits to be called a woman’, the court said a person who had committed such acts had no right to live in a civilised society and that the best place for her were the four walls of jail.
According to police, Punjaban gained notoriety for exploiting women and forcing them into flesh trade. Punjaban, whose real name is Geeta Arora according to police records, ran one of the biggest prostitution rackets in Delhi and nearby states in early 2000.
Additional sessions judge Pritam Singh also sentencedPunjaban’s accomplice, Sandeep Bedwal, 41, to 20 years in prison for the abduction and rape of the 12-year-old girl.
Apart from the present case, Punjaban has five other cases involving murder, the immoral trafficking act and the POCSO act against her. This is her first conviction in the multiple crimes. Punjaban was arrested in December 2017 from a hideout in Delhi and presently lodged in Mandoli jail in judicial custody.
The court directed the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA) to pay a compensationof Rs 7 lakh to the girl.
“In India thousands of children are kidnapped every year. Very few of them are recovered. Minor girls are kidnapped on the pretext of marriage to be sold in flesh industry where they are sexually exploited on a daily basis. (This) is also one of those cases where a minor innocent girl was trapped in the name of love and kidnapped in a pre-planned manner to force her into flesh trade,” the judge said in his order.
The court sentenced Punjaban to two jail terms of 14 years for offences under the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act and 10 years for other offences under the Indian Penal Code, including selling and buying of a minor girl for prostitution and criminal conspiracy, while stating that she would stay in jail for 24 years.
Bedwal was sentenced to 10 years for kidnapping, kidnapping, abducting or inducing woman to compel her marriage, procuration of minor girl, selling a minor girl for prostitution, criminal conspiracy of IPC and another 10 years for offences under section 376 (rape) of IPC.
The court also imposed fines of Rs 64,000 and Rs 65,000 on Punjaban and Bedwal, respectively.
On July 16, the court had convicted Punjaban and Bedwal for kidnapping the minor girl on the pretext of marriage and her rape.
Police had said the girl was sold several times to different people for prostitution.
In 2014, she managed to escape from the house of a man who bought and married her. She went to a police station and on her statement, an FIR was registered.
Deputy commissioner of police (crime) Bhisham Singh, who has been part of the probe team ever since the case was transferred to the crime branch in 2017, said the court’s judgment vindicated the saying that “justice can be delayed but not denied”.
“I am happy because we as a police team could help the victim get her due justice. She was less than 13 years when she was kidnapped,” said DCP Singh.
Retired Delhi Police officer, Ashok Chand, who was an additional commissioner of crime branch, said, “I had been part of teams investigating cases related to Sonu Punjaban and her associates. Now that she has been sentenced to 24 years in one of the cases, many of her victims may feel they have got justice.”
Punjaban’s first husband Vijay Singh, a gangster, was killed in a police encounter in 2004. Her second husband, Hemant Singh, was also killed in 2006 by a police team in Gurgaon.