An inter-ministerial panel tasked with drawing up the contours of India’s first law to tackle human trafficking has proposed the minimum jail term be raised to 14 years, double of the punishment according to existing laws.
Every year, human trafficking sees thousands forced into prostitution and child labour by organised groups that target young women and children from impoverished regions, often with the lure of jobs.
Nearly 5,500 cases of human trafficking were reported in 2014 – a more than 50% increase from the 2,848 cases in 2009.
The committee, headed by V Somasundaran, the secretary of women and child development (WCD) ministry, also recommended that assets of a person involved in trafficking be confiscated and mandatory registration of placement agencies, which often hire trafficked women and children.
The panel was set up in November last year on directions of the Supreme Court to give inputs for a draft bill that will cover aspects such as prevention, pre-rescue, post-rescue, rehabilitation and resettlement of victims. It has representatives from the ministries of WCD, home, external affairs, law, labour and health among others.
Presently, there is no single law dealing with trafficking and the crime is covered under different acts administered by at least half-a-dozen ministries including WCD, home, labour, health, Indian Overseas Affairs and external affairs. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 lays down the minimum punishment for trafficking at seven years in jail, extendable to 10 years and a fine.
“In the absence of a single comprehensive law, the enforcement was lax,” said an official on the panel.
The panel has given its recommendations based on which the WCD ministry will now draft the law. The process would be completed by June, the official added.
Other proposals include a mechanism to give trafficking victims a new identity “so that she can start her life afresh,” another official said.
Also, each state would be required to set up atleast one police team to investigate trafficking cases.
The panel also suggested measures for strengthening victim protection protocol to ensure that a trafficked person is treated as a victim. “All the existing law is focused on perpetrators. We are proposing to make it victim-centric,” said an official.