Death of maid: police invoke trafficking charges

The incident in which a domestic help died after more than a week-long struggle, following a fall from a sixth-floor apartment near the Marine Drive here, has taken a more serious turn with the Central police probing the incident, invoking a more grievous charge of human trafficking.

Three days after the incident, the police had registered a case invoking Sections 342 (wrongful confinement) and 338 (causing grievous hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others) of the Indian Penal Code based on the woman’s husband’s complaint that she was locked up against her will in the apartment.

“We have now invoked IPC Section 370 for human trafficking, which is a non-bailable offence. We will add more sections as our probe warrants,” said S. Vijayasankar, Station House Officer.

The section entails imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine. It entails greater imprisonment terms, including for life, for trafficking more than one person, minors and repeated offences.

The victim from Tamil Nadu was found on the portico of the apartment on December 5, hours after she might have fallen while climbing down using two saris tied to the handrail of the balcony attached to the kitchen where she reportedly used to sleep at night. She succumbed to her injuries on Sunday.

The Kerala State Women’s Commission on Monday intervened in the issue and its chairperson M.C. Josephine called for a reprobe, while terming the incident “mysterious”.

Talking to reporters on the sidelines of a mega adalat of the Commission here, she alleged that the employer of the deceased had been accused of cruel treatment of a 14-year-old girl who was engaged as maid in the past. The police at that time had invoked soft charges, she said.

Shortly after the police registered a case, the employer of the deceased, a lawyer, petitioned the District Police Chief (Kochi City) demanding an impartial probe and accused the woman of trying to flee after stealing money. He also accused the investigating officer of forcing the family of the maid to level allegations against him under the influence of a section of the media.

Sonia George, State Secretary of Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), alleged that there was pressure on the family of the deceased not to press charges and to accept some compensation in return. She said the victim with a visually challenged husband hailed from a family that was so poor that even their 13-year-old son had to work to make both ends meet.

A senior Labour Department official said that any intervention in the matter would be subjected to police investigation and that compensation, if any, would have to be paid by the employer, He said the department would help with the transportation of the body.

‘Bid to settle case’

The maid’s husband on Monday said that a person close to the employer had approached him with a request to settle the case. At a press conference, Srinivasan said his thumb impression was collected on a few papers. He said promise was made to foot hospital bills and to bear the expenses of taking the body back home. However, none of those promises were fulfilled.

Mr. Srinivasan said he had asked his wife to return in view of the forecast of Cyclone Burevi. However, the flat owner did not allow her to return without returning the advance of ₹10,000 that he had allegedly paid. Following this, the amount was transferred to his account. Yet, his wife was not allowed to come back home, he said.

He alleged that there were attempts to sabotage the case and demanded action against the employer.

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