Monday, June 5, 2023

SC Issues Notice To Centre & States In A PIL Over Menace Of Child Trafficking

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The Supreme Court of India on Monday has issued notice to the Centre and States on the PIL filed seeking prevention of child trafficking in many states, especially West Bengal. The Writ Petition was filed by NGO “Bachpan Bachao Andolan” in the Supreme Court.

As the hearing begun, Petitioner said that children engaged as child labour have reached homes during lockdown and they should be protected from being again exploited. He further added that already cases of minor girls from West Bengal being sold has come in news reports. 

The case was heard by bench comprising of CJI S.A. Bobde, Justice A.S. Bopanna & Justice  Hrishikesh Roy conveyed to the Senior counsel appearing on the behalf of petitioner NGO, Mr. H. S Phoolka that “we are aware, trafficking being done for prostitution or at times. Find out how this market itself can be stopped”.

CJI said that “We are the ones who provide a market for this kind of labour because it is cheap.”

“Can every contractor who does private work also be registered somewhere?” question raised by  CJI to the counsel.

Thereafter, CJI asks the Solicitor General of India, Mr. Tushar Mehta to suggest measures to curb this menace.

On which SG replied by saying that, “This is not an adversarial litigation at all”. 

CJI then said that, “We can also form a committee of eminent persons”.

In the Petition, it was said that Child trafficking is prone to manifest in two principal ways-child labour and sex trafficking. Children are trafficked first and then placed in labour either forced or for earning a sub-minimal wage or more unfortunate ones, i.e particularly girls and young boys, are forced into sexual exploitation.

In the last few years, the petitioner has received intel from its various units all over the country that on the opening of the Lockdown, there is likely to be a massive spurt in cases of child trafficking. It has received information from multiple sources that traffickers have become active, have started approaching potential victims and families and have seen starting handing out advance payments for the children”, mentioned in the petition.

The petitioner further mentioned that he has maintained a follow-up on children it has rehabilitated and repatriated in the past from child labour and the same report on the sudden activation of traffickers, has been received from them. 

It was submitted by the petitioner that that a targeted Covid-19 response by the Respondents in the form of formulating a policy/guidelines, before opening of the Lockdown, can substantially decrease the trafficking in children. In the given circumstances it would be apposite if the Respondent No.1 is directed to formulate a policy/issue guidelines specific to preventing trafficking of children, in accordance with this Hon’ble Courts Judgement dated 5.09.2017. The Policy be then circulated to Chief Secretaries of all States, for implementation. As some Districts would be more vulnerable to trafficking, in terms of trafficking children or receiving trafficked children, a District Plan under Section 31 should address the concern, in lines of the Policy issued by the Respondent No.1.

Thereafter, the petitioner conveyed through his petition that if proactive steps are taken to put in place a system, before the lockdown is lifted, in terms of the Policy to be formulated to prevent child trafficking, the impending humanitarian crisis in the aftermath of the ongoing global health crisis can be largely prevented.

Based on the intelligence and information collected by the Petitioner, traffickers have already become active in various areas all over the country and are tapping on the vulnerabilities of poor families by coercing or inducing them into selling/sending their children. It is of the utmost importance that this practice be nipped in the bud and a comprehensive policy be made, at the earliest, to achieve the said purpose. 

The petitioner has sought directions from the Apex court to the Centre to frame an  appropriate policy/guidelines on Prevention of Trafficking in  Children and their rescue and rehabilitation in the wake of  Covid-19, at the earliest.

The Supreme Court has listed the case for further hearing after 2 weeks.

-India Legal Bureau

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