In a significant development that will have a bearing on the rehabilitation of trafficking survivors in West Bengal, the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA), Kolkata has awarded ₹9 lakh as compensation to a teenager. According to non-government orgainsations, and different other groups working in the field of human trafficking, this is the highest ever compensation by any DLSA in West Bengal.
The case pertains to a 13-year-old girl who was allegedly trafficked from Odisha and sold to a brothel in Songachi, Kolkata, in 2016. She was rescued on May 7, 2016, by officers of the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit, Kolkata Police.
Three perpetrators, one of whom was a minor, were arrested in connection with this case. However, the charge-sheet in the case was submitted without the relevant POCSO Sections.
“We are hopeful that the precedent set in West Bengal will be followed in other States to benefit survivors of trafficking that includes crimes like sex-trafficking, and bonded labour,” said Saptarshi Biswas, Director of Legal Solutions, International Justice Mission, Kolkata.
The grant of ₹9 lakh compensation to the minor survivor was after considering the circumstances, such as the pending POCSO cases, non-grant of interim compensation, since trial is yet to begin, the psychological effects of this crime and victim’s educational pursuits. The girl, who is 17 years old now, is studying in Class VIII and is at a shelter home.
In 2018, the Calcutta High Court passed a judgment in favour of granting compensation to victims while also observing that the two requirements of Section 357A of the Code of Criminal Procedure need not be satisfied for grant of compensation to victims.
Activists welcome move
Tafteesh, a coalition of human rights activists, researchers, lawyers and survivors of human trafficking, also expressed happiness over the development.
“The reason for our happiness comes from the fact that this victim compensation order was possible owing to an earlier judgment [passed] by Calcutta High Court in cases of two trafficking survivors that our team had actively pursued,” said Nisha Mehroon, a sociologist and researcher associated with Tafteesh.
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