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Punjab jurisdiction in enacting anti-human smuggling law challenged in HC

Taking up the petition, a division bench comprising Justices Rajive Bhalla and Navita Singh issued a notice of motion to the Punjab government.

Written by Sanjeev Verma | Chandigarh |
August 21, 2015 3:22:22 am

The Punjab government’s law against human smuggling has been been challenged in the Punjab and Haryana High Court on the grounds that only the Central government has the power to enact such legislation.

Taking up the petition, a division bench comprising Justices Rajive Bhalla and Navita Singh issued a notice of motion to the Punjab government, directing the state to inform the court by September 7 on whether it has the competence to come up with such law.

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The petition has been filed by 27 travel agents of Ludhiana, who have submitted that the Punjab Prevention of Human Smuggling Act, 2012, later renamed as the Punjab Travel Professionals’ Regulation Act, 2012, is unconstitutional and liable to be struck down. The petitioners have also claimed that it is a “draconian Act” which gives “unbridled”powers even to police officers to carry out search operations.

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Appearing for the petitioners, advocate R K Kapoor argued that it is only the Parliament which is competent to legislate on issues which are directly or indirectly connected with foreign laws, foreign issues, emigration and expulsion from India, passports and visas. The court was informed that the preamble of the Act states that it has been enacted to curb the fraudulent activities of those involved in human smuggling but the counsel argued that it is not understandable as to how that can be achieved by regulating the profession of travel agents.

Teh counsel further submitted that a number of provisions relating to licensing and penalties on travel agents have been drafted in a draconian manner to eliminate those already engaged in the business of travel agency and then to control them through close friends and relatives of those in power.

The counsel submitted that the petitioners as travel agents arrange local and international package tours for students, families, routine tourists etc. In the process, the petitioners assist the tourists in filing of the requisite forms and documents required to be filled up online which are difficult to be comprehended by the common traveler. And all these formalities are totally legal and duly scrutinised by visa agencies of embassies.

The petitioners have also questioned the need for the Punjab government to enact such legislation, particularly when Parliament has already enacted the Emigration Act, 1983, governing various issues pertaining to issues relating to emigration.

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