Forum Against Child Sexual Exploitation (FACSE), in collaboration with International Justice...
What it took to make a century
Submitted by dahimaz on 24 October 2017
In 2012, the National Crime Records Bureau reported that while Maharashtra had the highest number of arrests in sex trafficking cases, it also had a 7% conviction rate. The trial processes in sex trafficking cases are rife with challenges—from absconding accused to unavailable victim witnesses.
The first of IJM’s 101 convictions dates back to 18 December 2002, where Judge S.B Gaikwad of the Sessions Court at Greater Mumbai, convicted a female trafficker for offences under Sections 366A and 372 of the Indian Penal Code and Sections 5 and 9 of the ITPA. Of the 46 cases, 26 were before the Sessions Court at Greater Mumbai, 13 at the Special ITPA Magistrates Court in Sewree, three at the District Sessions Court in Thane, two before the Court of Sessions at Dindoshi and two at Special PoCSO courts in Churchgate.
Most of the cases were initiated through a police rescue under Section 15 of the ITPA, in the presence of credible independent witnesses and led by a Special Police Officer. The journey to justice has not been swift—while most trials have concluded in an average of 3-4 years after the rescue, one of the cases was in trial before the Additional Judge at the Sessions Court of Greater Mumbai for seven years. The judgment was eventually pronounced by Judge Surana on 26 October 2016, who was the tenth Judge to hear the case. It had passed through the hands of 13 Public Prosecutors, transferred between four Police Court Clerks, and represented by at least six watching advocates who represented IJM. It concluded with a conviction of three female traffickers.
The Social Service Branch of Mumbai and the Anti Human Trafficking Units in Thane have played a vital role in establishing the correct procedure for rescues in cases under the ITPA. With the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act of 2013, Section 370 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) brought new meaning to the offence of trafficking and enhanced the term of punishment. Thus cases that were previously heard by Magistrates could be committed to a court of Sessions before Judges.
“Sessions Courts Judges being able to hear all ITPA cases allows more stakeholders to be exposed to trafficking cases, helping them realise the gravity of the offenses and the urgency with which these cases need to be disposed,” says Advocate Cassandra Fernandes, who has represented complainants as a watching advocate for the past 12 years.
“Every conviction achieved by prosecutors is a product of the successful collaborative processes of the police, shelter homes, prosecuting officials and judiciary,” says Sanjay Macwan, IJM Regional Director for North India. “Each conviction is a step towards ending impunity and clear sign of a system that works. It is also proof of a system that has evolved to fill gaps through policy amendments and technology like the use of government notifications and video conferencing.”