The Bombay high court (HC) has asked the state and Central government to provide details of the anti-human trafficking units (AHTUs) set up in Maharashtra and what measures have been taken to ensure that the law is being implemented in letter and spirit. The state and Centre have been asked to respond by February 17.
On January 27, a division bench of chief justice Dipankar Datta and justice Girish Kulkarni, while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Rescue Foundation, an NGO working to rehabilitate victims of human trafficking, was informed by advocate Chetan Mali that the PIL was seeking implementation of the amended Anti-Human Trafficking Law, and though there was a scheme for setting up AHTUs in every district, the state government had set up the units at only 12 of the 36 districts, which were insufficient.
Mali submitted that the NGO sought directions to the authorities to form AHTUs in every district and further assign the investigation of all cases of human trafficking for sexual exploitation to be conducted by the anti-human trafficking unit only.
In an earlier hearing, the state government had submitted that it was keen to coordinate with other states to strengthen inter-state cooperation on rescue, rehabilitation, safe return, transfer, reintegration of victims of trafficking and prosecution of offenders. The state had further submitted that apart from the existing 12 AHTUs in Mumbai, Thane Rural, Thane City, Pune, Sangli, Nagpur, Ahmednagar, Navi Mumbai, Solapur City, Beed, Kolhapur and Yavatmal, it was in the process of setting up another 24 AHTUs to cover the remainder of Maharashtra.
When asked as to the status of the state government’s proposal to the Centre, advocate DP Singh sought time to obtain instructions, which the court accepted.
While asking the state to file an affidavit on the status of the 24 AHTUs being set up, the bench also directed the Centre to apprise it of the status of the state government’s proposal and posted further hearing of the PIL for February 17.