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Legal provisions regarding Slavery under section 370 & 371 of Indian Penal Code

There must be a selling or disposal of a person ‘as a slave’ that is, a selling or disposal whereby one who claims to have a property in the person as a slave transfers that property to another.

Regarding buying or disposing of any person as a slave, Section 370 of the Indian Penal Code states that: “Whoever imports, exports, removes, buys, sells or disposes of any person as a slave, or accepts, receives or detains against his will any person as a slave, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.”

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Section 370 of the Code punishes the practice of slavery not only in its strict and proper sense but also in any modified form where any absolute power is asserted over the liberty of another.

This section makes penal –

(i) The importation, exportation, removal, buying, selling of a person as a slave;

(ii) The disposal of a person as a slave; and

(iii) The acceptance, reception, or detention of any person against his will as a slave.

There must be a selling or disposal of a person ‘as a slave’ i.e., a selling or disposal whereby one, who claims to have a property in the person as a slave, transfers that property to another. Lawful contracts for the transfer of a child by its parents do not amount to this offence, e.g., giving a child in adoption, giving a girl in marriage etc.

The offence under Section 370 is non-cognizable, bailable, non- compoundable and triable by a Magistrate of the first class.

Section 371 of the Indian Penal Code provides that: “Whoever habitually imports, exports, removes, buys, sells, traffics or deals in slaves, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term not exceeding ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.”

While Section 370 of the Code deals with the casual offenders of slavery Section 371 deals with the habitual slave-traders and provides punishment to them.

The offence under Section 371 is cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable and is exclusively triable by the Court of Session.

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