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India ready to ratify UN convention

Sahil Makkar,

The move will allow the government to sign mutual legal assistance agreements with 154 member countries

Eight years after signing the United Nations (UN) convention against transnational organized crime, India is ready to ratify it and bring its laws in line with international standards.

The move will allow the government to sign mutual legal assistance agreements with 154 member-countries as well as put pressure on nations such as Pakistan to assist in efforts to combat money laundering, drugs and arms smuggling and human trafficking. The treaty is the first legally binding instrument that commits members to take collective action against human trafficking—especially of women and children—smuggling of migrants and trafficking of firearms. A senior home ministry official said after signing up in 2002, India had assessed the gap between its laws and those prescribed by the convention.“We sought comments and views of various ministries before putting it before the cabinet. We also visited many countries to review their systems,” the official said. “Earlier, it could not be cleared due to difference in views of all stakeholders. Now the gap analysis is prepared, and it was found that Indian laws sync well with the UN mandated norms,” the official added.

The matter was brought before the cabinet in April. The cabinet will take it up next week, and is likely to clear it, the official said.

A second home ministry official confirmed this, adding: “After the cabinet approval, an Indian delegation led by a minister will visit and submit documents to the UN, which will further process the matter.” Both spoke on condition of anonymity. Pakistan ratified the convention in January. “Pakistan, which has not been very cooperative on the issue of human trafficking, money laundering, drug trafficking and smuggling of illicit firearms, can (now) be held accountable in the UN. Pakistan can be pressurized to cooperate,” the second official said.After ratifying the convention, India will be committed to taking steps against transnational organized crime and adopt new frameworks for extradition, mutual legal assistance and law enforcement cooperation. It will also have to train its officials to implement the new laws, and provide them technical assistance.

“It is a welcome and much-needed step,” said Ravi Kant, a senior Supreme Court lawyer and President of Shakti Vahini, which works against human trafficking. “India will now also adopt international practices related to rehabilitation and relief of human trafficking victims. The much-needed amendments to Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, Juvenile Justice Act, Child Labour Act and Bonded Labour Act would also be carried out.” Girija Vyas, president of the National Commission for Women, also welcomed the move.“It will really prove helpful in prevention of human trafficking as India can put pressure on other member-countries,” she said.

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