Court allows trafficking victims to depose from Odisha

For the first time in Karnataka, a sessions court has ordered that victims of bonded labour relocated to the safety of their home towns can depose through video conferencing.

The order by the third additional district and sessions judge, Anekal, was passed in a case dating back to 2014. Three persons from Odisha’s Bolangir district - Susheel Jaal, 30, Sumithra Jaal, 20, and Urmila Jaal, 7, witnesses in the case, have been allowed by the court to testify from a civil court in Bolangir.

Sessions judge Syed Baleegur Rahaman has written to the registrar of civil court in Bolangir to arrange for video conferencing for the examination of the witnesses.

“If the witnesses do not understand Kannada, Hindi or English, the registrar, civil court, Bolangir, is requested to appoint a translator, for recording their evidence,” the court said.

The case pertains to 2014, when the anti-human trafficking unit, along with the district administration and the police arrested a brick kiln owner for trafficking people and
employing them as bonded labourers.

Following the raid, 11 persons of three families from Bolangir, including three young children, were rescued. Except for a one-year-old child, all the persons, including children aged six, seven and 11 years, were working for a year as bonded labourers in the brick kiln. They were not allowed to go home even for funerals and were forced to work 14 hours, seven days a week, for poor pay.

The Attibele police, who conducted detailed inquiries, booked a case against the brick kiln owner.

A senior advocate told DH that the order is unprecedented and goes a long way in reforming the way such cases are dealt with, by the lower courts.

“Witnesses fail to depose before the court due to various reasons, including fear of the accused. Allowing them to depose from their hometowns will reduce such incidents,” he said.

International Justice Mission (IJM), which has been working in rescue and rehabilitation of bonded labourers, welcomed the ‘landmark’ order.

“This has the potential to set a precedent for future bonded labour and trafficking cases, whereby victims can depose via video conferencing from their native places. It may also assist in the speedy and efficient disposal of bonded labour cases,” IJM said.

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