The Bombay High Court has observed that offences under The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act (PITA) have social and cultural ramifications. The court has directed the Central and Maharashtra governments to file affidavits stating if trafficking police officers, Anti-Human Trafficking Units and advisory bodies contemplated under the Act have been set up and/or functioning and discharging their duties.
The order was passed by a division bench of Chief Justice D K Upadhyaya and Justice Arif Doctor on Wednesday while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by a NGO Rescue Foundation claiming that the provisions of the PITA are not being implemented by the authorities concerned.
“Not so happy situation”
The court noted that the PIL has raised serious concerns about a “not so happy situation” where offenders booked under the Act manage to escape the rigours of law.
The Central government has earlier informed the court that offences pertaining to human trafficking for slavery and sexual exploitation under sections 370 and 370A of the Indian Penal Code would be probed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) as it has inter-state and sometimes international connections.
Center has been silent on other provisions of PITA, remarked court
However, the court remarked that the Center has been silent on other provisions of PITA. It has not yet appointed trafficking police officers to investigate offences under the Act dealing with sexual exploitation of persons, allegedly committed in more than one state, the court added.
“In the absence of appointment of trafficking police officers, the offences under the Act reported to have been committed in more than one state will remain uninvestigated and hence there appears to be an urgent need for appointment of trafficking police officers,” the bench opined.
The Maharashtra government has been directed to file a comprehensive affidavit on whether the provisions of PITA are being implemented and to give details of the work and functions being performed by the Anti-Human Trafficking Units and Women Help Desks.
“The State government shall also indicate as to how many offences reported under Sections 370 and 370A of the Indian Penal Code in Maharashtra have been referred for investigation to the NIA,” the judges added.
The bench also directed the Union of India to file an affidavit giving details of the steps taken by it to ensure appointment of trafficking police officers.
The HC has kept the matter for hearing on December 4.