In what it described as "a sordid tale on how unscrupulous immigration agents deceive gullible Indians who are aspirants of overseas jobs", the Punjab and Haryana High Court recently recommended prior accreditation of agents to allow for a background check.
Justice Arun Monga, who was hearing an anticipatory bail plea in a cheating and criminal breach of trust case, said that "a bare reading of FIR is no less chilling and shuddering than a Goosebumps giving, pot boiler Hollywood thriller action movie plot".
Per the FIR, the accused had promised to send the complainant directly to the United States of America on payment of Rs.20 lacs, of which, 50% i.e. Rs.10 lacs was paid in India, and the balance was to be paid on his successful arrival in USA.
"Americas, the complainant did reach, but South America, instead of United States", the Single bench expressed its shock.
The judgment narrates the spine-chilling details of the tribulations of the complainant in the foreign land- He was first made to board a hopping flight from Delhi to Sao Paulo in Brazil. From Sao Paulo, he was flown to Lialeem. From there he was sent via another flight to Ecuador (South America). From Ecuador complainant was made to travel by road in a bus to Columbia (South America). Thereafter, journey continued from Medellin (Columbia) to Turbo (Columbia). From Turbo, the complainant travelled on the high seas by sailing in a boat to Capurgana (Colombia). After arriving at Capurgana, the complainant was grouped with a bunch of illegal immigrants. They then trekked the thick forests of Panama (Central America). The complainant group stayed for five days in jungles of Panama. One day they also stayed in an Army Camp in the forest. From Army Camp, complainant was moved to an illegal camp where he stayed for 24 days. Thereafter, the complainant was made to travel to Nicaragua (Central America) and onward to Honduras (Central America). From Honduras, the complainant was then taken to Mexico for entering in the United States of America. Finally, the complainant was made to cross the Mexico/USA border, albeit illegally.
"And to what a welcome in the USA ! The Complainant was immediately arrested by the US Police in California for illegally crossing the border from Mexico. After his arrest, the complainant was lodged in a jail in Georgia, USA. For ten months, he continued to languish in Georgia prison", exclaims Justice Monga.
The Single Judge noted that "perhaps, he would have continued to suffer in jail but for the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic" and that "the dreaded fatal virus turned out to be blessing in disguise for the complainant in view of decision to deport illegal jailed immigrants lodged in the USA, as a measure to plug the community spread of Corona viral infection".
"From Panchkula to Georgia prison to Panchkula, thus was the complainant back home. Hence, the FIR", writes the bench.
When the accused/petitioner claimed that allegations qua him are at the instance of Sarpanch of the village, being a figment of his imagination, owing to some previous inter-se enmity with him, the Single Bench retorted, "if that be so, surely the Sarpanch, with such fictitious imagination, should give up his current responsibility and take up fiction writing, for he is perfect material for a bestseller novel/invented story and would give quite a run for money to established novelists".
Even though the bail petition was withdrawn, the Court employed harsh terminology to state that it "cannot be unmindful of its duty to plug such in-humanitarian cases at the instance of the crooked, deceitful and immoral immigration agents, who rampantly indulge in human trafficking by treating an individual as no less than chattel".
The bench proceeded to observe that "sure enough, even when smuggled, chattel would be transported conceivably in better conditions than humans".
The Court, accordingly, deemed it apt to request the Respondent-State of Haryana through its Home Secretary as well as its Director General of Police to have a meeting on administrative side, so as to explore the possibility of preventing such kind of illegal immigration/human trafficking.
"If considered advisable and viable, they may constitute some kind of Regulatory Body and/or nominate an officer in every district who would have to necessarily issue an accreditation Certificate as a pre requisite to every agent claiming to be in business of immigration/naturalization and/or offering overseas jobs to the public at large in their State", suggested the bench, adding that "Press publicity from time to time may also be given to general public qua the same".
The Single Judge recommended that accredited agents list could be uploaded on the website so that a background check can be carried out on their genuineness/credentials, before anyone hires their services.
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