In the first of its kind, the Centre, states and union territories will have to carry out a comprehensive survey to determine the number of sex workers in the country who are willing to get rehabilitated.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the survey while holding that "right to live with dignity" was a constitutional right. A bench of Justice Markandeya Katju and Justice Gyan Sudha Misra also directed the Centre and states to file affidavits within two weeks on the suggestions to rehabilitate the sex workers.
The court also constituted a panel comprising senior advocates and NGOs to assist the court in monitoring the rehabilitation work. It said: "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'.
The SC directed the Centre, states and UTs to co-operate with the panel. The Centre and states will attend the meetings convened by panel chairman.
The SC further said the Centre will allot suitable accommodation and necessary infrastructure for the panel in Delhi and asked the panel to initially focus on metros - Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Mumbai.
The court gave its direction dealing with a case in which it held a man guilty of murdering a sex worker in Kolkatta.
While deciding the appeal, the bench, however, appointed senior advocate Jayant Bhushan to assist the court and had directed the Centre and State governments to prepare schemes for imparting vocational and technical training to the sex workers.
Directing the constitution of a committee, the bench specified that the state governments' affidavits must focus on the implementation of the suggestions as "merely indicating that States and Union of India are doing enough would not be sufficient for the cause."