India’s first anti-human trafficking law should have provision to penalise commercial carriers and transport companies if they fail to ensure that people travelling to the country are carrying requisite travel documents, Union urban affairs minister Hardeep Singh Puri has recommended.
The provision exists in the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crimes, which puts the onus on commercial carriers in ensuring that passengers are in possession of requisite travel documents. India is a signatory to the UN convention.
In a letter to law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad last week, Puri has highlighted how “certain critical features” of the UN Protocol are missing from the proposed domestic law. Puri is part of the group of ministers (GoM) set up to review the anti human-trafficking bill
“The UN Protocol provides trafficking against women, along with minors be given due recognition. The current proposal, while adequately addressing tracking of minors, does not provide the same salience to crimes against women,” says Puri’s letter, a copy of which has been reviewed by HT.
Besides, Article 6, Section (1) of the UN Protocol states that “each state party shall protect the privacy and identity of victims of trafficking persons”.
“The proposed bill is silent on the need to secure the identity of victims,” Puri’s letter notes.
The draft Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2017, piloted by the Union women and child development (WCD) ministry, proposes punishment of up to 14 years for traffickers, measures to rehabilitate victims, and the mandatory registration of placement agencies that recruit and place domestic help.
In a first, it also treats a trafficked person pushed into prostitution as a victim, instead of the prevalent practice of treating them as criminals like the traffickers and facing jail term of up to seven years.
The bill was referred to a four-member GoM, headed by external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj last month when it came up for approval before the cabinet.
“It was referred to the GoM after Swaraj and Puri flagged incongruities in the bill,” said a senior government official familiar with the development.
WCD minister Maneka Gandhi and law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad are the other two members of the GoM.
“Once the GoM gives its report, we will go to the cabinet for approval,” said a senior WCD ministry official who did not want to be quoted.