The Punjab government on Sunday announced that it had agreed to the plea of travel agents to rename the Prevention of Human Smuggling Act as the Travel Industries Regulations Act and to do away with empowering the police to search and arrest them on complaints.
A decision to this effect was taken after a recent meeting of deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal with travel agents. In turn, he had asked the state home department to prepare a brief for the cabinet in this regard, an official spokesman said here.
"The deputy chief minister has decided to accept all suggestions made by travel agents. He has asked the principal secretary, home (DS Bains), to move an appropriate memorandum to the cabinet to amend the Prevention of Human Smuggling Act (PHSA)," the spokesman stated.
The associations had expressed the apprehension that being licensees under the PHSA put them at a disadvantage where the police could misuse Clause 10 of the Act, that provides for "power to search, seizure of conveyance, place and arrest of persons."
"The associations had the apprehension that they may face harassment at the hands of police officers, who might take suo motu cognisance of frivolous complaints made by persons who are denied visa by the embassy concerned for no fault of the agents," the spokesman added.
The agents' delegation also stated that the very name of the legislation put them at a disadvantage when they applied to various embassies and universities to get visa for their customers/applicants.
The associations had also objected to the minimum three years of punishment to convicts under Clause 13 of the Act, and, it has been agreed to annul this quantum of punishment as well so that the courts could themselves decide on the imprisonment period that could extend up to seven years.