Adopt victim-centric approach in trafficking cases: CJ

Adopt victim-centric approach in trafficking cases: CJ

High Court Chief Justice L Narayana Swamy speaks with High Court Judge Arvind Kumar on the seminar with judicial officials on the Karnataka Law Services Authority and the High Court Legal Services Committee on Sunday.

Judicial officers in the state should adopt a victim-centred approach while dealing with human trafficking cases, acting Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court Justice L Narayana Swamy said.

Speaking at a judicial colloquium on anti-human trafficking at the High Court of Karnataka on Sunday, Justice Swamy said judicial officers should go beyond the judicial privileges to actively protect the rights of victims.

Referring to the devadasi system, he said customs and traditions causing harassment should be eliminated.

“Same goes for economic and social conditions that create vulnerable communities who fall prey to trafficking. If you are a district officer, you must see to it that these problems are eliminated. Judicial officers can contribute to reform through legal service authorities and ensure a better conviction rate,” Justice Swamy said.

Justice Aravind Kumar, judge of the high court and chairman of the legal services committee, expressed concern over the low conviction rate in trafficking cases. He pointed out that less than 500 of the 5,000 incidents across the country were actually registered and conviction is achieved in very few of those cases.

Justice Kumar felt India needs a central legislation that can be effectively applied against all forms of human trafficking.

P William Christopher, associate director at International Justice Mission (IJM), said lack of awareness among district-level officers, including deputy commissioners, has been a major challenge in the rescue and rehabilitation of bonded labourers.

“The deputy commissioner has the authority, but directs us to go to the Labour Department, which in turn tells us to approach the Social Welfare Department. Despite guidelines by the central and state governments, there is a huge knowledge gap among district-level officers,” he said.

He said large-scale reforms are needed to ensure that victims of human trafficking and bonded labour get justice without delay. Several judges at the local courts are unaware of amendments to Section 370, making such crimes non-bailable. Victims are scared to speak about perpetrators who are emboldened by bail, Christopher added.

About 200 judges from the lower courts and legal service authorities from all the districts took part in the event organised by the Karnataka State Legal Services Authority and High Court Legal Services Committee.