NEW DELHI: The Union Cabinet is likely to take up the draft anti-human trafficking bill tomorrow and decide whether the anti-terror body National Investigation Agency (NIA) can be empowered to probe such cases, official sources said.
After the Cabinet approves the Draft Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, the government hopes to bring it before Parliament in the second part of the Budget Session starting March 5, they said.
The draft Bill proposes that NIA probe cases of human trafficking.
According to a senior official of the Ministry of Women and Child Development, the NIA would receive financial aid under Nirbhaya Fund for safety of women in order to set up a cell for investigating human trafficking.
The proposed legislation divides various offences into "trafficking" and "aggravated trafficking".
The former category of crimes would carry a jail term of seven to 10 years and the latter would carry a punishment of at least 10 years in jail, which can be extended to life imprisonment.
Aggravated offences will include forced labour, bonded labour, forced surrogacy, use of narcotics to induce forced labour, trafficking in the garb of marriage and those that lead to a pregnancy or grave illness such as HIV/AIDS.
The draft bill also moots life imprisonment for repeat offenders and three years in jail for abetting, promoting and assisting trafficking.
The proposed law recommends a national anti-trafficking relief and rehabilitation committee which would be headed by Secretary of Women and Child Development ministry.
It also suggests setting up of a rehabilitation fund and prescribes a process to be followed for repatriation of trafficked persons.
These proposals were approved by a group of ministers in a meeting last month.
The group comprised ministries of external affairs, law and justice, housing and urban affairs and, women and child development.
The Ministry of Women and Child Development had first released a draft of the proposed legislation in May 2016 for stakeholders' comments.
After widespread criticism that the Bill lacked teeth, the Centre made several changes to it.
Later, for more than a year the Bill was delayed because of back and forth communication between the ministries of women and child development and home affairs over the issue of setting up of a national bureau on trafficking.
Late last year, the WCD ministry relented that the role of national bureau could be performed by the NIA.
Government officials say that in order to empower the NIA to probe trafficking cases, the National Investigation Act, 2008, will have to be amended.
The NIA was set up by the UPA government in 2009 to probe terrorist activities in the aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which killed 166 people.
According to the National Investigation Act, the anti-terror body is empowered to probe offences under eight specified laws, including the Atomic Energy Act 1962, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967, and the Anti- Hijacking Act 1982.