Human Trafficking in India which is illegal per se under the Indian Law remains one of the significant problems in the present situation. The poor and downtrodden sections of the society are the most vulnerable class and with no means of livelihood. The law which has been clear since a long period of time has lacked the right implementation and enforcement. Therefore, the activities of the traffickers have been going without any fear of the law and order. This paper tries to highlight the features of the Anti-Trafficking Bill, 2018 and towards the end highlights the shortcomings of the bill that should be rectified to ensure that the legislation is capable of satisfying the intention behind the draft legislation.
According to Global Slavery Index, India has more than seventy lakh victims of Modern Slavery. It is a very high number even for a thickly populated county like India. At the same while we see a sharp increase in the number of slaves, the conviction rate is very low. The numbers of cases actually reported are even lower and that pinpoints as to how deep-rooted the problem of trafficking is in India. The main reason that comes to light is the lack of stringent laws and even more deficient application of the laws.
According to the National Crime Bureau, 8132 human trafficking cases were reported in India in 2016 under the Indian Penal Code, 1860. 23,117 trafficking victims were rescued in the same year, 2017. Out of these, the highest numbers of people were trafficked for forced labour (45.5%) and next in line was prostitution (21.5%).
The data and statistics provided above clearly show the reason why there was a need to come up with a strict legislation to curb the issue. The answer to the problem was The Trafficking of Persons (Preventions, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018 which was introduced and passed by the Lok Sabha but bill lapsed before it could be passed by the Rajya Sabha.
Features of the Bill
The Bill states that the provisions of the Bill shall be read in consonance of the other laws and in case of any discrepancy the provisions of the present bill shall prevail over the other laws. The key features of the bill are:
- Definition of Trafficking: The term ‘trafficking’ as defined in the bill includes recruitment, transportation, harboring, transportation or receipt of a person for exploitation through use of certain means. These means can be use of threat, force, fraud, deception, abduction and abuse of power. Exploitation can be physical, sexual, slavery and may also include forced removal of organs.
- The bill also makes a distinction with regards to trafficking. The bill classifies some offences as cases of the aggravated trafficking which includes trafficking for forced labour, bearing children, begging or inducing hormones or substances for early sexual maturity. The punishment for these offences shall be higher than the offences of simple trafficking.
- Rescue & Investigation: The bill has provisions for rescue & investigation at district, state and the central levels. At the District level, the state government shall appoint anti-trafficking police offers under Anti-trafficking units for one or more districts to keep an eye on the activity in the area and rescue the victims. The rescued victims shall be them produced before a Magistrate or before a Child Welfare Committee in case of a minor. The investigation needs to be completed in period of 90 days from the date of registration of the FIR.
- At the state level, the government shall appoint a nodal officer to combat the issue of trafficking in the state, to keep a check on the ant-trafficking officers and the to ensure smooth functioning in the coordination and monitoring the inter-state transfers of victims, witnesses, evidences & offenders. All the district nodal officers shall report to the state nodal officer.
- At the national level, the central government shall constitute a National Anti-Trafficking Bureau which shall take over a matter which shall be referred to it by two or more states.
- Protection & Rehabilitation: The bill mandates the central or the state government to set up Protection Homes which shall be responsible for the counselling, food & medical services, shelter along with the Rehabilitation Homes to provide long-term rehabilitation to ensure a fruitful life ahead.
- Rehabilitation of the victims shall not be dependent upon the fact whether criminal proceedings have been initiated against the victim. The victims shall be given the required treatment irrespective of the verdict of the court.
- The district and the state anti-trafficking committees shall undertake to ensure sufficient educational and livelihood programs to make the marginalized classes self-sufficient so that instances of trafficking can be prevented. Further, their work includes implementation of the already laid down rules and ensure that they don’t just exist on paper.
- Special Courts: The bill provides for setting of special courts that shall be only dealing with the trial of matters involving trafficking and efforts shall be made to dispose the matters within a period of one year.
- Penalties: There are different punishments under the act for different offences. The offence of Trafficking of one person shall attract imprisonment for 7-10 years along with fine and the sentence increases if more than one person or a minor is involved. Aggravated forms of Trafficking shall attract a punishment of minimum 10 years which extend to life imprisonment along with a minimum fine of Rs. 1, 00,000.
- Attachment & Confiscation of Property: The bill provides with the authorities the power to attach property of the accused upon apprehension of offence under the bill and if convicted the attached property shall be forfeited by the government. The government may sell the property in question and direct the sale proceeds to the Rehabilitation fund set up by the government.
Comparison with Existing Laws
In India, Human Trafficking is dealt under various laws. Starting with the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1986 which basically covers the trafficking for the commercial sexual exploitation and the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 which deals with the punishment for employment intended for bonded labour. Each of these laws has a separate enforcement mechanism. The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the present bill state that the bill intends to create a comprehensive statue to deal with the issue of trafficking.
The primary concern about the bill has been its vague language which makes it more vulnerable to misuse and abuse. The United Nations too has raised concerns with regard to unclear language of the bill which shall include the activities which shall not particularly relate to trafficking. The provision in the draft where it criminalizes ‘encouraging or abetting any person to migrate illegally into India, or Indians to some other country’ mixes up two separate issues of illegal migration and human trafficking. The bill does not clearly state what kind of material shall come under the ambit of the bill and which shall not.
Another concern is that the provisions of the bill provide for Immunity to the victims for the crimes committed under coercion, undue influence or threat of death or grievous injury. But the immunity only extends to those crimes which are heinous in nature and carry an imprisonment of more than 10 years. Therefore, immunity cannot be claimed for petty crimes which may been committed under coercion and that defeats the entire purpose of the provision. The bill provides that consciously allowing a premise to be used for carrying out the trafficking activities is punishable. But the bill goes far beyond and presumes the guilt of the owner of the premises which is not the case in similar legislations.
While the Bill is a great and a timely attempt by the government to come up with a complete and detailed legislation that shall become an important tool in tackling human trafficking, it has its fundamental issues which shall defeat the entire purpose of the legislation. The Government was expected to adopt a broader approach according to the report of the expert committee but it did not fully succeed. At the same time, this is great step in the domain of human trafficking in a country where this thing operates in full swing under radar and the official statistics are just a tip of the iceberg. The bill has its advantages which include a segregation of offences and enhanced imprisonment but the real issue lies with the mechanism that shall keep a check on the human trafficking and bring it to light so that the law can be put to use and the offenders behind the bars.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the Anti Trafficking Bill, 2018?
- Why is the Bill so important for India?
- What are the features of the Bill?
- Why this is called a bill? Why this has not been a law yet?
- What are the already existing legislations regarding Human Trafficking?