The federal anti-terror National Investigation Agency (NIA) will be India’s nodal authority to probe human trafficking cases, the government said on Wednesday after a Union cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, cleared the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill.
“We hope to introduce the bill in the budget session,” women and child development (WCD) minister Maneka Gandhi told reporters.
At present, the Indian Penal Code and the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act deal with trafficking, but the WCD ministry said that since it is an organised crime, a separate law is required.The new bill also addresses the need for immediate protection of victims, Gandhi added.
Official data for 2016, released in November last year, showed that more than 19,000 women and children were trafficked in India. Officials in the WCD ministry said the NIA would get money under the Nirbhaya Fund to set up an exclusive cell to investigate the cases. The NIA Act would also be amended, they added.
The bill divides various offences into “trafficking” and “aggravated trafficking”. It says that trafficking crimes would carry a jail term of seven to 10 years, and aggravated trafficking crimes of at least 10 years in jail, extended to life imprisonment. Aggravated offences will include forced labour, bonded labour, forced surrogacy, use of narcotics to induce forced labour, trafficking in the garb of marriage and those that lead to a pregnancy or grave illness such as HIV/AIDS.