Hiring a domestic help knowing he or she may have been trafficked could land you behind bars for three to seven years.
The Criminal Law Amendment Ordinance cleared by cabinet this week has introduced trafficking as an offence under the Indian Penal Code and outlawed anyone from hiring such persons. The provisions are expected to come into force by Monday latest.
The existing law only prohibits pushing people into slavery and the sex trade and for trafficking in children.
But under the new law, recruiting and transferring anyone for exploitation by force, threat, fraud or inducement would be a crime.
This means if your help was lured by a placement agency with promises of a good salary and a better life, the law could treat him or her as a trafficked person.
The ordinance stipulates a jail term of three to five years for those who, despite knowing or having a reason to believe that their employee is a victim of trafficking, hire a trafficked adult.
If the victim is a minor, the jail term would be five to seven years.
The Justice JS Verma panel report had taken a dim view of law enforcement agencies ignoring or suppressing complaints of trafficking and recommended the government bring laws in line with international standards.
However, Supreme Court lawyer Amit Khemka said the draft approved by cabinet appeared far too wide and prone to misuse.
"How can you treat trafficking for supplying domestic maids and sex workers or for organ removal with the same brush?" he asked.
Expressing concern that people could be penalised without having any criminal intent, he added: "Employers should be punished only if they know their employee has been trafficked... The expression 'having a reason to believe' can be interpreted in any way and even misused against bona fide employers."
A home ministry official, however, argued that the huge demand for domestic workers was turning out to be one of the most important factors that encouraged the trafficking of women and children.