The state home department was directed to file a report in this regard by the next hearing on June 13.
The Madurai Bench of Madras High Court on Monday sought the state government’s response on whether it is willing to give investigating power and additional resources to special units like Anti Child Trafficking Units (ACTUs) in the state.
A Bench of justices R Suresh Kumar and KK Ramakrishnan raised the query after it was informed that there are 43 ACTUs in TN but they have not been declared as ‘police stations’ as per the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and hence cannot conduct investigations.
The Bench, while hearing a batch of habeas corpus petitions, mainly involving minor girls’ missing cases, was of the opinion that there is an increase in the number of missing complaints relating to minor girls and also sexual exploitation of girls in the name of love affairs. To ascertain if the state police have special wings to tackle the issue, the judges had sought a status report from the Director General of Police in the previous hearing in April this year, on the number of special units formed relating to the issue, and their functions, among others.
Pursuant to this, the Assistant Inspector General of Police, High Court Cases Monitoring Cell of the DGP office had filed a report on Monday stating that there are 32 Anti-Human Trafficking Units (AHTUs) and 43 ACTUs (sub-unit of AHTU) in Tamil Nadu. While each AHTU will have an inspector, five sub-inspectors, four head constables, and four police constables, each ACTU will consist of an inspector, a sub-inspector, a head constable, and two police constables, the report said, adding that these units assist the regular police in dealing with anti-human trafficking and anti-child trafficking cases.
Perusing the report, the judges noted that the special units had been formed based on a suggestion made by a coordinate bench of the court in a habeas corpus petition seven years ago. Though the Bench had actually made the suggestion so that the ACTUs could investigate the child missing and trafficking cases, the units have never been conferred the power of investigation because they have not been so far declared as ‘police stations’, the judges observed, adding that this defeats the very purpose of constituting ACTUs.
Moreover, regular police stations are overburdened with several duties and it would not be possible for them to complete investigations in child missing cases in a speedy manner, the judges further opined. They, therefore, expressed that special units like AHTUs and ACTUs should be declared as ‘police stations’ under CrPC and should be given investigating power and sought the state government’s stand on the matter. The state home department was directed to file a report in this regard by the next hearing on June 13.