NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Monday sought response from the Centre and the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) on a plea by an NGO seeking framing of a policy to prevent child trafficking which has allegedly seen a sudden rise during the COVID-19 lockdown.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde, hearing the PIL filed by the NGO -- 'Bachpan Bachao Andolan', run by Nobel laureate Kailash Satayathi -- issued notices to the NDMA, ministries of Home Affairs and Labour and Empowerment and nine states.
The bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and Hrisheksh Roy, took note of the submissions of senior advocate H S Phoolka on behalf of the NGO and asked him to find and suggest 'some way' to ensure that children are not 'exploited'.
Seeking the assistance of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta during the hearing via video conferencing, the top court said it may appoint an 'experts committee' to look into the child trafficking issue and asked Phoolka to do 'some homework' for suggesting ways to deal with the problem.
Phoolka, assisted by lawyers Jagjit Chabbra and Prabhsahay Kaur, said that a 'pro-active approach' is required by all district authorities to ensure that such incidents, which have risen recently, are effectively curbed.
The law officer said that the matter was not adversarial in nature and would assist the court in dealing with the issue.
During the hearing, the bench also asked the NGO also suggest mechanisms to control the market of Child Labour and prevent contractors from employing child labour.
The nine states to which the top court issued notices are Assam, Bihar, Chattishgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Delhi, and Telangana.
It has fixed the hearing on PIL after two weeks.
The plea said that these states have seen largest number of transfer of migrant workers and this is the time when children trafficking can be effectively curbed.
"Issue an appropriate writ directing Respondent no.1 (NDMA) to frame an appropriate policy/guidelines on prevention of trafficking of children and their rescue and rehabilitation in the wake of COVID-19 at the earliest," the NGO said.
The NGO, in its plea, also sought a direction to the NDMA and the Centre to "circulate the policy so prepared under to Chief Secretaries of all states and governors of all UTs for action and mandatory implementation."
The PIL sought a direction to the MHA to "mandatorily direct all states to activate their anti-human trafficking units to prevent and take appropriate action on child trafficking" including but not limited to identifying the known and potential traffickers, monitoring and sharing information and intelligence with the Centre as a part of coordinated response and action.
The NGO said that it has received information that cases of trafficking will increase once the lockdown is relaxed as potential victims are already being approached.
The PIL said that child trafficking is prone to manifest it two ways - child labor and sex trafficking.