Bombay HC dismayed at Centre’s stand on State’s proposal

Bombay HC dismayed at Centre’s stand on State’s proposal

The Bombay High Court recently expressed dismay at the Central government’s stand of seeking repeated justification from the Maharashtra government on its proposal to notify police officers as trafficking officers as per the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act (ITPA).

A Division Bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G.S. Kulkarni was hearing a criminal public interest litigation (PIL) filed by the NGO, Rescue Foundation, in 2017 through advocate Chetan Mali.

The PIL sought appointment of special police officers under ITPA and establishment of anti-human trafficking units.

Last week, Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, appearing for the Centre, told the court that the State had been called on to justify its proposal by a letter, dated December 02, 2020, and a subsequent reminder with respect to the appointment of special officers.

The court said, “We are surprised that such a letter seeking justification could at all have been issued, particularly when the object of the Act is noble, that appointment of trafficking police officers is required to be made to give effect to the provisions of the Act, and that there was a judicial order of this Court requiring the State to forward a proposal to the Union of India in this behalf. Dismayed at the stand of the Union of India.”

On two occasions — January 27, 2021 and April 11, 2018 — the Union government had told the State to make proposal/statement for appointments. On January 27, 2021, Deepak Thakare, public prosecutor appearing for the State, had informed court that a proposal has been forwarded to the Union of India on October 26, 2020, to notify all Assistant Commissioners of Police and all Deputy Superintendents of Police as well as Assistant Superintendents of Police as “Trafficking Police Officers” as provided in Section 13 (special police officer and advisory body) of ITPA.

Mr. Thakare had said the Union of India is yet to convey its decision on such a proposal to the State. However, the advocate appearing for the Centre said he needs time to apprise the court on the matter.

On April 11, 2018, the Centre told the court that the State has to make a statement for appointment of the officers after a letter, dated April 4, 2018, sent to the Additional Public Prosecutor by the Deputy Secretary mentioned that certain officers have been conferred with powers under Section 13 of the ITPA by a government notification of 2006.

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