Child Trafficking: U’khand HC Orders DNA Test Of Children Seen With Beggars, Passes Other Directions [Read Judgment]
The Uttarakhand High Court has directed DNA testing of all children found begging on the streets or in company of a beggar to check their parentage and trace trafficked or kidnapped children, while also directing the state to display photographs of missing children on bus stands and railway stations, besides passing a string of directions to check inter- and intra-country human trafficking, especially child trafficking.
“The Court can take judicial notice of the fact that the minors are kidnapped by the organized gangs to force them into beggary. The Police Department should conduct DNAs of the parents as well as of the children of the beggars to ensure that the children found in their company are their own children. The Court again recommends that the begging should be banned throughout the State of Uttarakhand by bringing suitable legislation on the analogy of Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Beggary Act, 1975. The religious places should be free of beggars,” ordered a bench of Justice Alok Singh and Justice Rajiv Sharma.
The division bench passed the directions while reversing the trial court’s order of acquittal of one Sartaj Khan and holding him guilty of kidnapping, importing, buying, intimidating and sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl from Nepal who he had brought to India in April 2015, by practicing fraud and inducement of shopping.
Sartaj, 30, had been let off by the trial court. The state had come in appeal, which was allowed by the high court, which observed that “importation of girls and their kidnapping for exploitation is a heinous crime against the Society. It is an organized crime. There should be strictness against the persons who are indulging in this heinous act”.
The court will hear arguments on quantum of sentence on December 12.
Girls Exported Due To Abject Poverty In U’khand
Delving into various conventions and legal approach across the world to combat trafficking, the court took judicial notice of the fact that “in the State of Uttarakhand also due to abject poverty, the girls are being exported to adjoining States, more particularly, from Districts Champawat, Pithoragarh and Almora”.
Increase Patrolling On International Border
The bench noted that till October 2017, 19 cases were registered under the human trafficking in the state. The rescue victims are from Nepal, Bangladesh, West Bengal, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Nagaland.
The victim in the instant appeal was also from Nepal.
Referring to the Indo-Nepal treaty, 1950, the court said, “It is evident from the treaty that the movement of citizens across the country is unrestricted but still to check the human trafficking, more particularly of minor girls, the central agencies, local agencies should at least insist for proper verification and identity of children more particularly, minor girls coming to India. The antecedents should be verified and counter checking be made from the authorities in Nepal. The agency should ensure that the children who are travelling to India without their legal guardian should be properly counselled and telephone numbers of their guardian should be taken along with the permanent address to be verified and re-verified from the counterpart agencies of Nepal.”
Book Wrongdoings At Shishu Niketan Shelter Home
The court also took note of the news item captioned “Government sitting on national global trafficking racket in Uttarakhand”, published in an English daily on December 5, which reported that Manoj Chandran, then Additional Secretary of the State Social Welfare Department, has prepared the report regarding ‘rampant child trafficking going on in the state’, which highlights several points that required into criminal acts against the children at Shishu Niketan shelter home.
“It is stated in the report that the children brought to the shelter homes were sent to work at different houses in Dehradun and Noida as a domestic help. However, till date, no FIR has been registered against the persons employed in Shishu Niketan for their criminal acts. There is also reference of girls from Nepal and Jharkhand,” it noted.
The bench directed the state government to constitute a special investigation team headed by the Senior Superintendent of Police to investigate the matter, as per the details given in the report by Manoj Chandran, within four weeks and register FIRs against the persons, who were/are involved in human trafficking of boys/girls from shelter homes.
The court noted that there is a mere 14.3 per cent conviction rate when it comes to cases of child trafficking.
In 2013, 16 cases were registered of human trafficking. In 2014, 28 cases were registered. In 2015, 23 cases were registered. In 2016, 12 cases were registered, while 19 cases were registered till October 2017.
According to National Crime Records Bureau report, 208 girls and 216 boys were missing in the previous years in Uttarakhand, below the age of 18 years.
In 2016, 224 boys and 211 girls had gone missing.
“The State Government is required to take steps to trace them and reunite them with their families. In the State of Uttarakhand, 312 girls and 277 boys were traced in previous years upto 2016. The percentage of recovered girls is 72% and percentage of recovered boys is 67.9%. In 2016, 432 girls and 427 boys below the age of 18 years went missing. The police have traced 312 boys and 277 girls. Still 270 children are missing.
“The report of National Crime Records Bureau is alarming as per as missing children in the State of Uttarakhand are concerned,” said the court while placing its appreciation for the sincere efforts made by the police department to trace out the children and restore them to their guardian.
The state of Uttarakhand has constituted seven anti-human trafficking units in Vikasnagar (Dehradun), Haridwar, Kotwar(Pauri Garhwal), Uttarkashi, Haldwani (Nainital), Banbasa (Champawat) and Pithoragarh.
Between 2013 to October 2017, total 98 cases registered under human trafficking, in which 13 cases pertained to boys, 42 to minor girls, 06 to males and 76 to females.
Below Are The Directions Issued By The Court:
- All the Central agencies, local agencies in the state of Uttarakhand should insist for proper verification and identity of children, more particularly, minor girls/women coming to India from Nepal. The antecedents should be verified and counter verification be made from the authorities of Nepal.
- The minor children coming from Nepal should be properly counselled and telephone numbers of their guardian should be taken along with the permanent address to be verified and re-verified from the counterpart agencies of Nepal.
- The court recommends to the Central Government to frame law based on model law against trafficking in persons, as drafted by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in relation to trafficking, victim and witness protections, assistance and compensation, protection of victims and witnesses in court, protection, relocation of victims and/or witnesses, repatriation of victims to their countries of origin.
- The police authorities should invoke provisions of the Money Laundering Act, 2008, against the persons who are involved in human trafficking and also to attach the properties of persons involved in human trafficking.
- The central agencies should increase patrolling on the international borders with the help of genuine non- government organizations to check the human trafficking, more particularly, of minor girls/women by setting up more check-posts and by providing additional manpower.
- All the anti-human trafficking units in the State of Uttarakhand must be headed by a person not below the rank of DSP/CO, one Inspector, two Sub-Inspectors and three ASI and 10-15 Constables. 50% of these officers/officials should be sensitized women.
- All public prosecutors, police officers should be adequately trained. Legal aid should be provided to the victims of human trafficking.
- The state should take preventive measures to check the trafficking of children from the state of Uttarakhand by improving the socio-economic conditions of the areas which are vulnerable to human trafficking.
- The state government is directed to provide safe and proper accommodation for the victims of human trafficking. They should be provided basic health care. They should be properly counselled by a psychiatrist. The court should appoint a legal guardian of an unaccompanied minor. His/her identity should be established. Steps should be taken to locate his/her family in the interest of the child. The trial under Sections 366(B) and 370 IPC should be held in camera.
- The State Government is directed to constitute a Special Investigation Team (SIT), if not already constituted, headed by the Senior Superintendent of Police to investigate the matter, as per the details given in the report by Mr. Manoj Chandran, the then Additional Secretary of the State Social Welfare Department, regarding ‘Rampant Child Trafficking’, within four weeks and to register FIRs against the persons, who were/are involved in human trafficking of boys/girls from shelter homes.
- The court can take judicial notice of the fact that the minors are kidnapped by the organized gangs to force them into beggary. The police department should conduct DNAs of the parents as well as of the children of the beggars to ensure that the children found in their company are their own children.
- The state government is directed to constitute special wing to locate/trace and restore the missing boys and girls with their lawful guardian. The state government is also directed to setup photo bank data to trace the missing children and to display it on their official website. The police department is also directed to have effective liaisoning with the adjoining states as well as with the Central agencies. The police department should flash the photographs of missing children at the earliest at bus stands, railway stations. The FIRs in the cases of missing children should be registered promptly and investigated in a time bound manner.
The photographs of the missing children should also be predominantly displayed in the regional as well as national newspapers and also on television. It is a very sensitive issue. The newspapers and news channels should reasonably charge the police for displaying the photographs of the missing children under corporate social responsibility. The state should also involve the gram panchayats at the grass-root level to trace the missing children.
Read the Judgment Here