DCPCR sends suggestions on Centre's anti-trafficking bill

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New Delhi, Jul 14 (PTI) The Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) has submitted a list of recommendations to the Centre in relation to the Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Care and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2021 and suggested the inclusion of national and state child rights bodies in anti-human trafficking committees.

The Ministry of Women and Child Development had issued a public notice inviting comments and suggestions on the bill on June 30.

In its recommendations, the DCPCR said the proposed bill erodes the powers of the child welfare committees constituted for the rehabilitation of child victims of trafficking and shifts this power to the district committees headed by district magistrates.

'Since children are vulnerable to trafficking, it is crucial that the child rights statutory bodies are included in the national and state anti-human trafficking committees. Similarly, the commission recommends the inclusion of ChildLine within the national and state-level committees, considering their crucial role for protecting children.

'The proposed bill erodes key provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act 2015, particularly with respect to rehabilitation of the children in need of care and protection. For example, section 8(3) specifies that all individual care plans of victims under this proposed bill are to be submitted to the District Anti-Human Trafficking Committee. This is in contravention to the Juvenile Justice Act, which confers this power solely to the child welfare committees (CWCs),' the panel said.

The bill places the burden of proof on the accused, which is violative of Article 21 of the Constitution, and contains no safeguard against its misuse, making it a draconian law open to abuse, it said, adding that such a position has been decried by the Supreme Court and several high courts in many judgments.

'This bill does not contain any provision for monitoring. We have recommended that the national/state human rights commissions, in consultation with the national/state commission for women and national/state commission for protection of child rights, be made responsible for monitoring,' the DCPCR said.

It also said the bill 'skips the crucial role that ChildLine plays in providing help to children in distress'.

The child victims of human trafficking are also supposed to avail the benefit of this emergency outreach service, but there is no mention of Childline in the bill, the commission said.

'The bill needs to provide for a mechanism if a child/family reaches out to ChildLine in case of a child victim of human trafficking,' it added.

The bill states that the repatriation of the victims must be completed within six weeks for intra-state repatriation, three months for inter-state repatriation and six months in case of inter-country repatriation from the date of production of a victim or his dependents.

'The commission notes that these are incredibly long timelines. There must not be any delay once basic processes like recording of testimony have been completed. There is no justification to not repatriate the victim early, particularly if the victim is a child. The commission accordingly recommends they must be reduced to two weeks for intra-state and four weeks for inter-state. Further, the bill must provide for penalties in case of failure to repatriate within the stipulated time-period,' the DCPCR stated.

It also recommended that the bill should be gender neutral. PTI SLB RC

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