Trafficking Bill 2021 will ensure smiles on the faces of children

  • | Friday | 30th July, 2021

BY: Pallab Ghosh, Sr. Journalist

Extensively cogitated as the world’s second biggest criminal enterprise after the illegal drugs trade, human trafficking today is a sickening reality posing a threat to a nation’s development, economic growth, sustainability, peace and prosperity, and unfortunately, India is not immune to it. Moreover, as a gross violation of human rights, it reduces people to objects to be bought and sold at meagre prices leaving them with little or no control over their existence. Not only is trafficking a gruesome crime in terms of the adverse effects it has on its victim(s) and society as a whole, it is also ubiquitous and the truth of many lives in the country.

According to a study, 36 per cent of trafficked victims in Asia are children, while 64% are adults. India tops the list with 14 million victims. Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi who has been working relentlessly for children and their welfare for the past 36-years was the first to raise the issue of trafficking demanding a stringent law. In 2017, the Nobel Laureate had taken out Bharat Yatra covering 11,000 kilometers from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, spanning 22 states. In 2018, the then Union Cabinet Minister for Women & Child Development Ms. Maneka Gandhi tabled The Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection, and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018 in the Monsoon Session of Parliament. The Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha but was never tabled in Rajya Sabha and it lapsed with the dissolution of the last parliament.

According to National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) 2019 , there has been a sharp increase in trafficking cases with every passing year. It increased from 2,837 in 2018 to 2,914 in 2019, registering a growth of 2.8%. The official number of missing children in 2019 was 73,138. Rajasthan, Delhi, Bihar, Odisha and Kerala, and Madhya Pradesh are the six top states reporting child trafficking. Kailash Satyarthi had predicted an increase in trafficking ahead of the pandemic and had warned people to stay observant. Over 9,000 children were rescued between 2020 and 2021 pandemic by Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA).
In a country like India, where there is a huge discrepancy between the have and have nots, poverty predominantly happens to be the reason behind trafficking. Unable to arrange two square meals in a day, families residing across remote villages are often compelled to send their children to big cities in search of work. Traffickers loom large like predators. Trafficking is a structured crime and operates at various levels. From village pimps or informers to clients in the cities are part of the syndicate. Small girls are sold to brothels. There are numerous placement agencies providing domestic aids that are also involved in the heinous game.
‘The Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Care and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2021’ has been listed among the 23 Bills to be tabled in Lok Sabha this Monsoon Session of Parliament. Let’s take a glance at some of the salient features of the new Bill:

a)      Trafficking in persons.-The definition of trafficking has been expanded to include that the ‘physical movement or the transportation of the victim is not necessary to establish the offence of trafficking’. It also states that in case the victim is a child the ‘means’ set forth for the purpose of trafficking is immaterial. 
b)      Victim.- The definition of victim has been made comprehensive to include victims of offences committed under this Act, or any dependent of a victim, or any child born in the course or in furtherance or as a result of an offence committed under this Act.
c)      Exploitation.- Exploitation has been defined to include, “causing of harm to or taking of benefit or gain from a victim without due or appropriate consideration, compensation or return in any form or manner for the benefit or gain of another person who himself may or may not be the perpetrator of such exploitation”.

II.      Covers new forms of aggravated trafficking.- This includes trafficking for the purpose of forced or bonded labour, debt bondage, slavery, servitude, sexual exploitation, bio-medical research or trials, carrying out unlawful activities in places such as placement agencies, massage parlours, spas, travel agencies, circus, etc.; trafficking by administering chemical substance or hormones for the purpose of early sexual maturity, trafficking of a woman or child for the purpose of marriage, or under the pretext of marriage, etc.

It also includes situations where the offence of trafficking results in to physical or mental disability, grievous hurt, acid attack, genital mutilation, persistent vegetative state, exposure to disease of irreversible nature, such as HIV/AIDS, etc.
The trafficking of a child, or a victim of natural or man-made calamity, communal or sectarian violence, etc., or trafficking by abuse of position of authority, by public servant has also been considered as an aggravated form of trafficking.
The Trafficking Bill, 2021 also provides stringent punishment for the offences of trafficking of women, or children, or transgenders under institutional care, trafficking for the purpose of smuggling of migrants resulting in to trafficking.

III.     Stringent punishment for the offence of trafficking and aggravated forms of trafficking.- There are provisions for stringent punishment for committing aggravated forms of trafficking; by organised crime syndicates, organised criminal groups; trafficking of persons of more than person; trafficking of persons on more than one occasion, etc.

IV.    Other offences.- The Trafficking Bill, 2021 provides for the punishment for non-disclosure of identity, neglect of duty by public servants, and non- reporting of commission of offence of trafficking in persons, non-registration of ‘protection and rehabilitation homes’, etc.

V.      Institutional mechanism from district to national level: The Trafficking Bill, 2021 proposed for a deterrent and dedicated mechanism from district to national level, viz. District Anti- human Trafficking Committee, State Anti- human Trafficking Committee, National Anti-human Trafficking Committee for the prevention, protection, rehabilitation, repatriation.

VI.    National Investigation Agency (NIA).- Human trafficking is an interstate, intrastate, and borderless crime. It is an organised crime, wherein there is an involvement of more than one criminal group and also includesvarious aspects of money laundering. Considering this, inclusion of NIA as a specialised agency for the purpose of investigation and prevention, the gaps in existing legislative and institutional framework for curbing the offence of human trafficking will be bridged.

VII.   Designated Courts and Special Public Prosecutors.- For the purpose of speedy trial of the cases, the Bill provides for designated court for each district (a court of session) and Special Public Prosecutors.

VIII.  Time bound trial, and repatriation: The Trafficking Bill, 2021 also provides for completion of trial, so far as possible, within a period of one year from the date of taking into cognizance of any offence under this Act.

The Bill provides for time bound repatriation: intra-state (6 weeks), inter-state (3  months) and cross border (6 months) respectively by District Anti –Trafficking Committee, or CWC, as the case may be.
IX.     Institutional care and protection.- The Bill provides for ‘protection homes’ and rehabilitation homes’ for short term and long term rehabilitation. The registration of these homes is mandatory and its non- compliance will result in to punishment. 
X.      Immunity to the victims in certain cases.- The Bill also provides for non-liability of acts committed by victim under coercion, compulsion, intimidation, etc.
XI.     Rehabilitation not contingent on criminal proceedings: The Bill says that the care, protection and rehabilitation of victim of trafficking is not contingent on criminal proceedings being initiated against the accused or the outcome thereof.
XII.    Victim friendly legal procedures.- Under the Bill, the designated court is entrusted with the duty to record the statement of the victim through video conferencing, especially in case of trans border and inter-State crimes where the victim has been repatriated to any other State or country and is unable to appear before the court for the reasons of safety or confidentiality.
Further, in case an application has been made by the victim for in camera   inquiry and trial, the Bill provides for such facility.
XIII.  Monetary relief and compensation.- The Bill provides for:
a)      Immediate relief: Within 7 days of the receipt of the copy of the FIR by the District Anti-human Trafficking Committee and District Legal Services Authority.
b)      Interim relief by DLSA: Within 30 days of the submission of application.
c)      Other measures related to for relief and rehabilitation of the victim: Within 30 days of an application having been made in this regard by or on behalf of the victim.
XIV.  Payment of backwages and compensation .- Under the Bill, the designated court may order, where applicable, any back wages due to the victim to be paid to him, in addition to any relief extended to the victim.
XV.   Forfeiture and Attachment of Property.- In order to break the organized nexus, both at the national and international level, the Bill provides for the attachment and forfeiture of property. Any amount or proceeds of crime shall be used for the relief and rehabilitation of the victim.

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