A trafficking case that continued for a decade resulted in the conviction of five accused last week.
A special Pocso (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act) court in the city sessions court complex convicted four men and a woman on May 17.
The next day the court sentenced all five to life imprisonment.
The convicts are Ruhul Kuddus Gazi, Sumit Sen, Papiya Rakshit, Pabitra Bala and Md Ismail.
While the first four were convicted under multiple sections of the Indian Penal Code, including 370 (trafficking), and under the Pocso Act, Ismail was convicted under IPC Section 376 (rape) and the Pocso Act.
Bala, who the police said ran a trafficking racket in Delhi, was picked up from the capital.
The judge, Indrila Mukhopadhyay Mitra, ordered a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for the survivor, who was 16 when she was trafficked in 2012.
The resident of North 24-Parganas was sold multiple times in a year and forced into prostitution in Delhi and Kolkata and neighbouring areas, police said.
She was raped several times at private locations as well as in brothels, the chargesheet said.
The order said: “The convicts do not call for any sympathy at all.”
“The offences were committed by them against a child victim who was the future of the society. She underwent sexual abuse by different persons which she did not deserve... she had mental pain, injury and trauma,” the order said.
The order assumes significance in the backdrop of the minuscule percentage of convictions in trafficking cases. The low conviction rate fuels the crime, which is highly organised, said the police and rights activists.
A total of 2,189 cases of human trafficking were registered in 2021, according to a National Crime Records Bureau report. The conviction rate was 16 per cent despite the fact that chargesheets were filed in around 85 per cent of the cases.
The survivor was rescued from the red-light district of Sonagachhi in Kolkata during a police raid in September 2013.
The survivor, then 17, was “too scared” to speak the truth in front of the cops, said an officer of the anti-human trafficking unit at Lalbazar.“She gave a wrong name and address. It took us a while to win her trust. But once we did, she gave us crucial information that helped us nab the traffickers. She showed great courage in pursuing the case. She testified in court against the perpetrators,” said the officer.
The FIR was filed on September 6, 2013, after the rescue.
Four Bangladeshi women, three of them minors, were rescued from the homes of Sen and Rakshit, the police said.
Mithu Das, the special Pocso public prosecutor, said: "The verdict would send out a message of hope to similar survivors who are enduring a lengthy legal battle."
"I hope this case will be an example of how grave it is to traffic human beings. I hope that the awarding of life sentence will stand as an example of deterrence and that there is surety of punishment," said Zothanpuii Varte, the lawyer for the survivor.
Defence lawyer Fazle Ahmed Khan said the verdict would be challenged in a higher court.