FAQs on the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018
1. Was the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018 (‘TOP Bill’) introduced in the parliament in a hush-hush manner? How transparent and inclusive was the process of making this bill?
The Bill was first drafted by an inter-ministerial committee, and the initial draft of the Bill was released by the Minister of Women and Child Development, Mrs. Maneka Gandhi in May 2016. The Ministry released the draft Bill and solicited comments from all stakeholders, including civil society organisations, and the window for receiving comments was 30 days. There were more than 700 responses and the draft received strong criticisms, following which the Ministry decided to organise more consultations and re-work the draft Bill.
Between July and September 2016, the Ministry of Women and Child Development held 4 consultations in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai, and invited stakeholders to the meetings, requesting reflections on (a) the architecture of the bill (b) the content, and (c) clarity. These were attended not only by organisations working against sex trafficking, but by a large number of activists working on labour trafficking as well.
In November of the same year, the Ministry called members who were involved in drafting the Bill, the inter-ministerial committee as well as all linked ministries, and proceeded with the Bill, with final comments.The bill then moved through the various linked ministries where there were differences of opinion, and as it moved to the Cabinet, the Government sought advice from a couple of legal firms, for their comments and to hold consultations with various groups. Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy (‘Vidhi’), one of those firms, specifically invited The National Network of Sex Workers and activists who work on human rights of sex workers, for the consultation. Vidhi supported the need for the new Bill and endorsed the bill with certain edits (no substantive changes).
The media has been reporting on the Bill consistently since its very inception, and accusations to the contrary (that the Ministry is being ‘secretive’ about the Bill) are factually incorrect and baseless.It has been introduced the way any Bill is normally introduced in the Parliament. There were continuous updates by PRS Legislative Research as well as the media. If anything, the Bill was introduced much more loudly than, say, the Finance Bill, which has already been passed.