According to the Karnataka High Court, Section 370 of the Indian Penal Code cannot be invoked solely on the basis of a suspicion that an accused participated in human trafficking.
“What can be gathered from the complaint and the chargesheet that is filed by the police is that, it is presumed that the petitioner had indulged himself in human trafficking and therefore, Section 370 of the IPC was invoked against the petitioner,” said a single judge bench of Honourable Justice M Nagaprasanna in quashing criminal proceedings initiated against one Rajkumar in the case of Rajkumar Vs The State Of Karnataka (Criminal Petition No.6118 Of 20).
It added, “Exploitation is at the heart of the arrangement. There is no allegation of exploitation by the petitioner in any of the victims’ complaints. The Immigration Officer was suspicious because of the complaint, investigation, and conflicting statements of those who accompanied the petitioner. The petitioner’s companions had stated that they had handed over some cash to him, which raised suspicion. This, in my opinion, is insufficient evidence to charge the petitioner with a crime punishable under Section 370 of the IPC for human trafficking.”
According to the facts of the case, the Assistant Immigration Officer at Bangalore International Airport checked and questioned three Indian nationals who were planning to travel to Kuala Lampur on July 20, 2019.
During questioning, it was discovered that they were all traveling in a group, with another passenger named Rajkumar – the petitioner – accompanying them. Further questioning reveals that the passengers were being taken to Kuala Lampur by the petitioner for employment purposes on tourist VISAs, according to the complainant.
It was also revealed that the petitioner had been introduced to them by another Amritsar-based agent named Kiran. A few of the people interviewed said they had paid money to Rajkumar and others. A complaint was filed against the petitioner for an offence punishable under Section 370 of the IPC based on the aforementioned interrogation and incident.
“If any further proceedings are permitted to be continued in the case at hand, it would become an abuse of the process of law and result in miscarriage of justice,” the bench said after going over the complaint and the police chargesheet.
It added, “It is a well-established principle that, in the end, if the petitioner is acquitted for lack of evidence, this Court should, in exercising its inherent jurisdiction under Section 482 of the Cr.P.C., obliterate the proceedings. One such instance is the one at hand.”
As a result, the petition was granted.