Delhi High Court: A Division Bench of Manmohan and Sangita Dhingra Sehgal, JJ., while addressing a petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed by the father of a girl child aged 15 years missing since 14-10-2019, held that,

On various occasions involving missing children, the local police / AHTUs functioning at district level typically seem unable to trace missing children, whereas when the investigation is transferred under orders of this Court to AHTU (Crime), typically the missing children are traced.

Court found it appropriate, additionally, to consider issues as to the working of the Anti Human Trafficking Units (AHTUs) in the NCT of Delhi, and had also sought suggestions from the Delhi Police.

Court found it appropriate to issue the following directions with a view to streamlining the functioning of Delhi Police /AHTUs in matters pertaining to tracing missing children:

  • It is directed that the District AHTUs shall function as a nodal agency for all cases of missing children in the district concerned and work in close coordination with the local police, as well as other agencies, providing expert assistance to Investigating Officers, including in respect of collection and analysis of technical evidence.
  • In every district, an officer not below the rank of a DCP shall, on a fortnightly basis, review the progress of investigation in every case registered in respect of missing children in the respective districts. Every Investigating Officer shall be responsible for drawing up and maintaining a Guard File for each case being investigated by them. The ACPs of the District AHTU shall be responsible for submission of such a file to the superior officer.
  • Within a period of 48 hours, an officer not below the rank of an ACP should be nominated at every District AHTU, who shall thereafter, on a regular basis, i.e., at least twice a month, analyse the pending as well as closed cases of missing children to identify patterns or other circumstances indicating the likelihood of links to trafficking or organised crime. In cases where there are indications of links to trafficking or organised crime, appropriate steps ought to be taken, including gathering such additional intelligence as may be necessary, and launching operations no later than within 24 hours to apprehend persons involved, and to rescue the missing children.
  • Within a period of 48 hours, an officer not below the rank of an Addl. DCP shall be nominated in each district, who shall thereafter hold at least one meeting each month with ACP (AHTU) and the SHOs concerned, to identify sections/pockets of their respective districts that are worst affected in terms of missing children.
  • Children rescued under Operation Milap are placed in Children Homes pending their restoration. Within a period of 48 hours, a team shall be formed at each district under an officer not below the rank of an Inspector (AHTU), to streamline and expedite the process of restoring such children.
  • It has been suggested that the Delhi Police ought to enter into an appropriate arrangement with radio-taxi / cab service provider to provide transport services on pre-approved rates, payments wherefor may be made by the Delhi Police through a centralised billing service. The Delhi Police is directed to examine and implement within a period of four weeks the entering into an arrangement with a radio-taxi / cab service provider after due consultation with the Finance and other departments concerned.
  • It has further been submitted that though the Commissioner had approved the suggestion that the Indian Railways be requested that an emergency quota be made for reservation of tickets for Investigating Officers required to travel outside the NCT of Delhi, orders of this Court may be required in this regard. Ministry of Railways is directed to initiate appropriate steps in this regard within a period of one week.

Hence, the High Court held that an action taken report shall be filed by the Delhi Police as well as the Ministry of Railways by the next date of hearing in respect of the above directions. [Surender Sah v. State, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 466, decided on 19-02-2020]

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