The National Investigation Agency (NIA) could be empowered to investigate cases of human trafficking, in what seems to be a breakthrough in the nearly year-long consultations among various stakeholders, including the home ministry and the ministry of women and child development.
Sources say the additional responsibility for the National Investigation Agency (NIA) would be part of the proposed anti-human trafficking law unveiled by Maneka Gandhi last year.
The move will also require amending the law that gave birth to the counter-terrorism agency — the National Investigation Act, 2008.
The Draft Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2016, proposed setting up a National Bureau on Trafficking in Person for “prevention, investigation of the trafficking of persons cases and protection of the victims of trafficking” — a role which could be performed by the NIA, sources said.
“The ministry of home affairs (MHA) wanted NIA to investigate trafficking and we have agreed to that. MHA has also given its approval for the draft Bill. After we get a green flag from Prime Minister’s Office, a Cabinet note will be circulated,” according to a top official of the ministry of women and child development.
Another official said “a cell within NIA” could be probing human trafficking cases.
After the Union Cabinet gives its approval, the draft bill will be tabled before Parliament.
“Traffickers enjoy immunity because local police agencies are not able to probe inter-state or cross-border crimes. We require a nodal agency as 80-90 per cent of trafficking cases span across various states,” said Ravi Kant, Supreme Court Advocate & President of NGO Shakti Vahini, explaining why activists have been seeking a central body to probe human trade.
Government officials say to empower the NIA to investigate trafficking cases the National Investigation Act, 2008, will have to be amended.
The NIA was set up by the previous UPA government in 2009 to probe terrorist activities in the aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which killed 166 people.
As per the National Investigation Act, the anti-terror body is empowered to probe offences under eight specified laws, including the Atomic Energy Act 1962, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967, and the Anti-Hijacking Act 1982.
The proposed anti-human trafficking legislation will be independent of the existing law on trafficking in relation to prostitution — Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 — while a section of the civil society has sought an umbrella law.
The draft law divides offences into “trafficking” and “aggravated trafficking”.
The punishment for offences in the former category is rigorous imprisonment between 7 and 10 years and a fine of not less than Rs 1 lakh, while aggravated forms of trafficking will invite a jail term of between 10 years and life imprisonment and a fine of not less than Rs 5 lakh.
Aggravated trafficking will include trafficking of children, transgenders, differently-abled, pregnant women and those which involve use of drugs and alcohol.
There is also a provision for a national committee as well as a central fund for the relief and rehabilitation services for the victims.