By Madhuri Xalxo:
There is more money in the city, Soni was told. She had been assured of a job. At 13, when most children are in school figuring out the algorithms of science, Soni washed dishes, and cleaned floors. She toiled for years with the hope of remuneration for her services. However, as wages, she received none. Her employer would give her wages to the man who brought her to Delhi. So, Soni decided to ask. Maybe she shouldn’t have asked for what was due to her.
Soni’s brother was in Delhi a few months ago to collect her decapitated head and other chopped body parts. The people from whom she had asked for wages had killed her because she was determined to have it. A case of murder has been registered at the Mianwali Nagar Police Station in Delhi.
But was it a murder alone? Shouldn’t the accused also be charged for trafficking?
According to NGO data, there are over 30,000 girls who get trafficked to cities for forced/bonded labour and/or commercial sex trafficking every year from the state of Jharkhand alone. Yet, National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, from 2016, on the crime of human trafficking for the whole country reports only 23,000, with Delhi reporting a paltry number of 66 cases on human trafficking. The glaring mismatch in numbers may have many reasons. Amongst others, one reason of under-reporting is non-recognition of the many aggregates that constitute the crime of trafficking.
Soni’s chopped body pieces were found in the drain. She was killed. But before being killed, she was trafficked three years ago, and exploited until killed. Nevertheless, there has been much resistance towards inclusion of the trafficking charges as the time-gap of sequential occurrence between the two crimes stands far-apart.
Trafficking is a crime of continuing nature, and the law renders the consent of the victim immaterial. Under Section 370 of Indian Penal Code, when whoever for the purpose of exploitation, recruits, transports, harbours, transfers or receives a person(s) (regardless of gender or age) using unlawful means, commits the offence of trafficking. Consequently, the police has a duty to register an FIR or frame charges for the offence of trafficking at source, transit or destination.
Often at destination, the police fails to take note of the offence of trafficking while registering the case of physical/sexual assault, rape and/or murder of the unskilled/semi-skilled migrant workers. Therefore, while we have news and media reports flashing case(s) of trafficking, like that of Soni, the same is hardly reflected in the FIR/Charge Sheet.