Alleged trafficking victims did not complain of exploitation: Karnataka High Court quashes Section 370 case

The petitioner was found at Bangalore International Airport accompanied by three Indian nationals, all on their way to Kuala Lumpur to seek employment, for which they had paid money to the petitioner.
High Court of Karnataka
High Court of Karnataka

The Karnataka High Court recently quashed criminal proceedings against a person accused of human trafficking, since the alleged victims had not made an allegation of exploitation in their statements [Rajkumar v. State of Karnataka]

The Bench of Justice M Nagaprasanna quashed criminal proceedings against the petitioner, stating that suspicion cannot be ground to prosecute the accused under Section 370 (buying or disposing of any person as a slave) of Indian Penal Code (IPC).

"The soul of the provision is exploitation. There is no allegation in the complaint made by any victim alleging exploitation by the petitioner. The complaint, investigation and wavering statements of the persons, who accompanied the petitioner created suspicion in the mind of the Immigration Officer. The suspicion was on account of the statement of handing over some cash to the petitioner by the people who accompanied him. This cannot in my considered view, be enough circumstance to prosecute the petitioner for offence punishable under Section 370 of the IPC for human trafficking," the Court said.

The case arose when the Assistant Immigration Officer at Bengaluru airport noticed three Indian nationals intending to travel to Kuala Lumpur, and questioned them.

It was revealed that they were all traveling in a group and accompanied by the petitioner, and were being taken there for employment purposes on tourist visas. They were introduced to the petitioner through another agent, and had paid some money to the petitioner.

Based on this, a complaint was registered against the petitioner under Section 370.

The Court noted that from the complaint and the chargesheet, it was presumed that the petitioner had indulged in human trafficking. Section 370 of the Indian Penal Code includes a number of ingredients for the offence of trafficking. Referring to the section, the Court observed that the soul of the provision is exploitation.

There was no allegation in the complaint that any victim had stated that the petitioner had exploited them. The complaint, investigation, and wavering statements of the persons who accompanied the petitioner created suspicion, which was due to handing of cash to the petitioner by the people accompanying him, the Court noted.

It, therefore, allowed the petition and quashed criminal proceedings against the petitioner, observing that if further proceedings are permitted it would be an abuse of the process of law.

Advocate MRC Manohar represented the petitioner and High Court Government Pleader KP Yashodha represented the State.

[Read Order]

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