The Draft Anti-Trafficking Bill may have been dubbed as a “comprehensive” legislation when it was launched earlier this year but activists say an umbrella law for this offence is not possible in the Indian context.
Final touches are being given to the draft bill before it is sent to the Cabinet.
The government is holding discussions with NGOs on the proposed bill aimed at addressing various aspects of human trafficking.
At the unveiling of the draft bill on May 30, the then Secretary of Women and Child Development V Somasundaran had said, “Trafficking is the third largest organised crime and time has now come to deal with it through a single comprehensive act.”
However, the proposed legislation to curb trafficking is not a “single comprehensive act” as it was initially tipped to be.
Activists say it will apply alongside at least 12 other laws which have provisions to deal with different kinds of trafficking.
These include Immoral Trafficking of Persons Act, IPC Section 176(a) and 363-374, CRPC, Juvenile Justice Act, Child Labour Act, Bonded Labour Abolition Act, Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, Prevention of Child Sexual Offences, IT Act, Transplantation of Human Organs Act,Inter-state Migrant’s Workmen Act, among others.
The activists say subsequent drafts have in fact corrected what was a flawed approach of having a composite law, which would address different kinds of trafficking within its ambit.
“The previous drafts have brought out one prominent failure in the entire exercise, namely carving out a single, comprehensive law seeking to address the essence of human trafficking with or without addressing each of the destination crimes of human trafficking,” according to Pravin Patkar of Prerana.
He also says several laws that currently deal with different aspects of human trafficking are adequate and, therefore, what is needed is to merely fill the gaps that exist.
“Most of the existing separate laws dealing with the known destination crimes of human trafficking (e.g., sex trade, sweatshops, beggary rackets, human organ trade, exploitation of children in the labour sector, bonded labour) are, by and large, adequate.
“… Bringing all of the laws together under one law will only be possible by physically pinning the pages of the distinct laws together with a single cover page. It will not be a new organic identity,” says Patkar.
NGO Prajwala’s Sunitha Krishnan, who is part of a committee formed to frame a new law on trafficking, too says it is not possible to have an umbrella law for this offence.
“You can’t have a comprehensive law because there are existing legislations. The idea is to have provisions in the new law that are missing in other existing laws. At the same time the new law should be read along with existing laws.”
The proposed legislation defines “trafficking of person” as per Section 370 of Indian Penal Code, 1860, which is, “Whoever, for the purpose of exploitation, (a) recruits, (b) transports, (c) harbours, (d) transfers, or (e) receives, a person or persons commits the offence of trafficking.”
The draft bill also clubs together different forms of trafficking under the category of “aggravated trafficking”, with punishment of up to life imprisonment. This category includes bonded labour, trafficking for the purpose of bearing a child, trafficking for the purpose of marriage, trafficking for begging, trafficking of a pregnant woman or resulting into pregnancy, among others.
The draft also seeks to create a National Anti-Trafficking Bureau for preventing, investigating and protecting cases or victims of trafficking.