The law is important because it acts as a guideline as to what is accepted in society. Without it there would be conflicts between social groups and communities. The law allows for easy adoption to changes that occur in the society. It also remains the most important tool for dispensing justice and compensate for injustices. But the most overlooked aspect of it is that it has not been utilized to its potential to deter and punish social disruptors and defaulters of socially accepted ethics and behavior who are in conflict with the law and are often termed criminals. And so it is expected and assumed that those working in the social sphere or are entrusted with responsibilities by the government - at least in their areas of duty or specialization- to have ample knowledge of the law and are well versed with its relevant applications.
Recent developments regarding the number of human traffickers being arrested from different areas of the state and their subsequent handling by the authorities, however, throws up a number of questions which would surely make a lot of individuals wriggle in their official seats with uneasiness. The most pertinent issue being that one out of the eight alleged human traffickers caught by the state security was released on bail due to the failure of the state machinery- read the police- to file a chargesheet even after 180 days of making the arrest/s as stipulated by law. It is also a matter of fact that the rescued individuals hailing from Nepal numbering 179 including 147 females and 32 males were handed over by the Chief Minister of Manipur to a delegation of Nepal embassy led by Counsellor Prakash Adhikari in an official event held at the indoor stadium, Khuman Lampak Imphal on Sunday the 17th February of the current year.
In these turn of events, a very vital procedure to initiate and complete the prosecution of the alleged traffickers was overlooked or neglected- that of recording the statements of the rescued victims before sending them away to their homeland. Section 164 in The Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973 dealing with Recording of confessions and statements states: Any Metropolitan Magistrate or Judicial Magistrate may, whether or not he has jurisdiction in the case, record any confession or statement made to him in the course of an investigation under this Chapter or under any other law for the time being in force, or at any time afterwards before the commencement of the inquiry or trial: Provided that no confession shall be recorded by a police officer on whom any power of a Magistrate has been conferred under any law for the time being in force. And in the absence of a recorded statement any attempt to bring the traffickers to book have fallen flat- a significant triumph for the traffickers and a smack in the ear for the authorities who are responsible for the blunder.
Evidently, somewhere along the long line of formalities and procedures, a huge lapse of knowledge or duty has occurred. Interestingly, there was ample time to remedy the shortcomings if the concern authorities have put their heart and mind to it but obviously chose not to. A blunder of this magnitude and significance cannot be passed off as an oversight or ignorance.
Was it that the urge to publicize and politicize the issue proved greater than the need to practice discretion and follow procedures to investigate into the matter? Was it pure and utter incompetency and collective ignorance of the state machinery to have led to the present situation? Was it the spineless individuals in authority who lacked the will and the gut to stand up to pressure which resulted in the failure to take up proper procedures into the investigation? Questions that need definitive answers if such lapses of knowledge or duty is to be prevented in the future. The most important concern is preventing hapless individuals from being exploited and proper focus should be made to generate awareness of the menace of human trafficking and the ground reality at present. Only a dedicated and appropriate effort can garner support and cooperation from every quarter which is vital in making any undertaking- whether legal or otherwise to reach its logical conclusion.
Jeet Akoijam, Resident Editor of Imphal Times hails from Singjamei Liwa Road. Has been with Imphal Times since its start. A National level Rugby player and a regular Trekker and Nature Lover, loves spending time in lap of Mother Nature. Jeet is the father of two lovely kids. Jeet can be contacted at [email protected]