The trafficking of persons (Prevention, Protection, and Rehabilitation) bill, 2018
The Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018 was passed in Lok Sabha by the Minister of Women and Child Development.
To prevent trafficking of persons, especially women and children and to provide care, protection and rehabilitation to the victims of trafficking, to prosecute offenders and to create a legal, economic and social environment for the victims.
Human trafficking is the third largest organized crime after drugs and the arms trade across the globe.
According to the definition of the United Nations – “trafficking is any activity leading to recruitment, transportation, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force or a position of vulnerability”.
Close to 80% of the human trafficking across the world is done for sexual exploitation and the rest is for bonded labour and India is considered as the hub of this crime in Asia.
National Anti-Trafficking Bureau:
- The Bill provides for the establishment of a National Anti-Trafficking Bureau to investigate trafficking cases and implement provisions of the Bill.
- The Bureau will comprise of police officers, and any other officers as required.
- It may take over the investigation of any offence under the Bill, that has been referred to it by two or more states.
- Further, the Bureau may:
- Request the state government to co-operate in the investigation, or
- Transfer the case to the state government for investigation and trial, with approval from the central government.
Functions of the Bureau:
Key functions of the Bureau include:
- Coordinating and monitoring surveillance along known routes,
- Facilitating surveillance, enforcement and preventive steps at source, transit and destination points,
- Maintaining coordination between law enforcement agencies and non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders, and
- Increasing international cooperation with authorities abroad for intelligence sharing, and mutual legal assistance.
State Anti-Trafficking O00fficers:
Under the Bill, the state government will appoint a State Nodal Officer.
He will be responsible for:
- Follow up action under the Bill, as per the instructions of the State Anti-Trafficking Committee,
- Providing relief and rehabilitation services.
- The state government will also appoint a Police Nodal Officer at the state and district levels.
- The state government will also designate Anti-Trafficking Police Officers for each district, to deal with all matters related to trafficking in the district.
- The Bill also provides for the setting up of Anti-Trafficking Units (ATUs) at the district level.
- ATUs will deal with the prevention, rescue, and protection of victims and witnesses, and for the investigation and prosecution of trafficking offences.
- In districts where an ATU is not functional, this responsibility will be taken up by the local police station.
Anti-Trafficking Relief and Rehabilitation Committee
- The Bill provides for the establishment of Anti-Trafficking Relief and Rehabilitation Committees (ATCs) at the national, state, and district levels.
- These Committees will be responsible for:
- providing compensation to victims,
- repatriation of victims, and (iii) re-integration of victims in society, among others.
Search and Rescue:
- An Anti-Trafficking Police Officer or an ATU can rescue persons, if there is an imminent danger to them.
- They will be produced before a Magistrate or Child Welfare Committee for medical examination.
- The district ATC will provide relief and rehabilitation services to the rescued persons.
Protection and rehabilitation:
- The Bill requires the central or state government to set up Protection Homes.
- These would provide shelter, food, counselling, and medical services to victims.
- Further, the central or state government will maintain Rehabilitation Homes in each district, to provide long-term rehabilitation to the victims.
- Rehabilitation of victims will not be dependent on criminal proceedings being initiated against the accused, or the outcome of the proceedings.
- The central government will also create a Rehabilitation Fund, which will be used to set up these Protection and Rehabilitation Homes.
- The Bill provides for setting up designated courts in each district, which will seek to complete trial within a year.
The Bill specifies the penalties for various offences including for
- Trafficking of persons,
- Promoting trafficking,
- Disclosing the identity of the victim, and
- Aggravated trafficking (such as trafficking for bonded labour and begging).
- For example, aggravated trafficking will be punishable with rigorous imprisonment of 10 years up to life imprisonment, along with a minimum fine of one lakh rupees.
- Further, the publishing of any material which may lead to the trafficking of a person will be punishable with imprisonment between five and 10 years, and a fine between Rs 50,000 and one lakh rupees.
- This classic raid-rescue-rehabilitation model is grounded in a robust criminal law system with stringent penalties, reversals of burden of proof, provisions for making traffickers less powerful by stripping them of assets and a parallel adjudication machinery consisting of special courts and special public prosecutors.
- It is unclear which agency undertakes the raid and rescue.
- The anti-trafficking Bill thus proposes to make the prosecution of trafficking under Section 370 meaningful. However, the Indian legal system has historically been unable to meaningfully translate the law into action.
- The raid-rescue-rehabilitation model built on the line of Immortal Trafficking of Persons Act (ITPA)which has been a failure.
- Protective homes under the ITPA have perversely resulted in state officials sexually abusing women and colluding with brothel-keepers and pimps.
- Without any financial commitments from the government, the anti-trafficking bill is an empty gesture, meant to appease modern-day abolitionists and secure a better ranking in the Global Slavery Index, moving it away from its current ‘hotspot’ status.
- The past experiences states that there is a lack of inter-Ministerial coordination.
- The bill does not address trafficking of transgenders. Thus, the bill remains gender insensitive.