HC dissatisfied with State response

Prateek Goyal
Saturday, 10 February 2018

Chetan Mali said, “Anti-human trafficking units (ATHU) in Maharashtra never investigate to find the traffickers. They only assist the local police whose investigation ends with the arrest of brothel owners."

PUNE: The Mumbai High Court which is dissatisfied with State government’s response to a PIL on human trafficking, has sought a response from the Centre. The PIL which was filed against Maharashtra police in June claimed that the police did not prosecute traffickers who recruit victims from other states and sell them into prostitution in Maharashtra.

The bench of Justice SC Dharmadhikari and Justice Bharati Dangre while hearing the petition on Friday expressed its dissatisfaction in the reply filed by State of Maharashtra which states that there are 12 anti-human trafficking cells in Maharashtra which are fighting against human trafficking across the state and the state has also appointed special police officers to fight against this menace.

However, the court didn’t find the arrangements made by the state sufficient to control human trafficking and stated that it did not see how establishing only 12 anti-trafficking cells was sufficient to investigate cases as investigation if trafficking cases not only required a sensitive approach but also adequate number of special police officers.

The court also asked the Central government to file a reply on the appointment of trafficking police officers who are appointed by Central government under section 13(4) of ITPA (The Immoral Trafficking prevention) Act.

Advocate Chetan Mali who appeared for the petitioners, said, “Anti-human trafficking units (ATHU) in Maharashtra never investigate to find the traffickers. They only assist the local police whose investigation ends with the arrest of brothel owners. Actually, the role of ATHU is to work in tandem with special police officers appointed by the state to carry out investigations to reach to the main source who operates the trafficking ring.

Instead of arresting the traffickers and kidnappers, the investigation never goes beyond the arrest of pimps and brothel managers.”

“The court therefore finds the reply of the state dissatisfactory and asked them as well the Central government to provide a proper response as the matter is of grave concern,” added Mali.

Nisha Haroon, a sociologist based in Kolkata, who is also a petitioner, said, “As the court has given strict directives in the matter, it has become mandatory for the police to take it seriously.”

The PIL was filed by girls who were rescued from flesh trade and Rescue Foundation, a Pune-based NGO which works against human trafficking. Based on cases from 2011 till 2015, the petitioners show how the police restrict their prosecution to brothel owners and do not investigate to find out traffickers who had recruited victims and by default granting them impunity. This is why trafficking is growing in states like West Bengal or Bangladesh from where Maharashtra receives more 40 per cent of victims of sex trafficking.

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