High Court of Punjab and Haryana, Chandigarh
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Charanjit Kaur & Anr v. State of Punjab & Ors - CRWP-486-2005  RD-P&H 3180 (16 May 2006)
IN THE HIGH COURT OF PUNJAB AND HARYANA AT CHANDIGARH.
CRL.W.P.NO.486 OF 2005
DATE OF DECISION : MARCH 21, 2006.
Charanjit Kaur and another .....Petitioners VERSUS
State of Punjab and others .....Respondents
CORAM : HON'BLE MR.JUSTICE RAJIVE BHALLA.
Present : Mr.Surinder Gandhi, Advocate for the petitioners.
Mr.B.S. Baath, AAG, Punjab.
Prayer in this petition is for issuance of a writ in the nature of Habeas Corpus.
During the pendency of the present petition, the petitioners have been released and in essence, the present petition has been rendered infructuous.
Counsel for the petitioners, however, prays that as the petitioners claim to be a bonded labourers, working on a farm, liberty be granted to file an appropriate petition under the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 (hereinafter referred to as"the Act"), in order to seek adjudication of their grievance that they were kept as bonded labourers. It CRL.W.P.NO.486 OF 2005 2
is further contended that the inquiry conducted by the Sub Divisional Magistrate is a mere fact finding inquiry and not an inquiry under the provisions of the aforementioned Act. Even otherwise, the nature of the statements recorded clearly reveal that the inquiry is biased.
Counsel for the respondent on the other hand contends that the present petition has been rendered infructuous and in case the petitioners have any remedy, under law, they would be at liberty to seek such remedy.
I have heard learned counsel for the parties and perused the record.
The Act confers wide powers upon various authorities to enquire into and investigate offences committed. The Act provides for setting up of committees, inspections, offences and punishments. The Government of India, Ministry of Labour has issued a Manual on Identification, Release and Rehabilitation of bonded labour, titled as "Abolition of Bonded Labour System". Authorities conferred with jurisdiction under the Act appear to implement the statutory provisions, on paper alone. Numerous petitions, clamouring for release of bonded labour, filed before this Court reveal a general apathy towards its implementation.
It would also be significant to notice here that directions were issued by this Court in Crl.Writ Petition No.46 of 1998 (Court of its own motion V.
State of Punjab & Others) as follows :
"a) The State should frame a scheme for extending the benefit of education to the children of labourers.
b) The labourers being of migrated nature should not be deprived of the benefits of economical prices on which essential commodities are provided through the Public CRL.W.P.NO.486 OF 2005 3
Distribution System. Therefore, the respective State Governments should issue specific directions to issue Ration Cards to the labourers promptly on their joining at any brick kiln.
c) The respective States may also issue directions to prepare a scheme to take the medical facilities for the labourers at the door steps of every brick kiln. Even this can be done through periodic mandatory visits or through mobile vans.
d) All the three States i.e. Punjab, Haryana and U.T.
Chandigarh are directed to ask the Deputy Commissioners or the officers authorised by them or any officer specified under Section 10 of the Act to pay a periodical visit on the brick kiln in their respective jurisdiction to find out whether the labourers are living peacefully without any boundation and further whether their children are getting the basic necessities of their life including education, medical facility etc. The Deputy Commissioner should also ensure that no child should work on the brick kilns as under the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulations) Act, 1986, there is a prohibition with regard to the employment of the children below 14 and 15 years in certain employment. However, there is no procedure laid down in any law for deciding in which employment, occupations or processes, the employment of children should be banned but on the brick-kiln no child below the age specified under the Act should be allowed to work.
e) The Deputy Commissioner should also ensure that the CRL.W.P.NO.486 OF 2005 4
labour should get proper wages also and the wages hsould be paid in advance by way of cheque.
f) The employer of the labourers should intimate the Deputy Commissioner concerned as to how much money they have paid in advance and whether they are charging any interest on the advance amount.
g) The Deputy Commissioner concerned should also ensure that if any labourer leaves the work before the contract period, there should be no forfeiture of his wages. The labourer should get full wages of his labour for the period, he was worked.
h) It is the duty of the District Magistrate/Deputy Commissioner or any of the officer authorised by him under Section 10 of the Act to enquire whether within the local limits or his jurisdiction, if any person is practising, the system of bonded labour or forced labour, then he shall forthwith take such action as may be necessary to eradicate this evil system and also take penal action against the person who practised the same.
i) The Deputy Commissioner will also send his periodical report to the Labour Commissioner of the concerned State with regard to the steps taken for the welfare of the bonded labour.
j) The Deputy Commissioner will also ensure that the employer will get insured every worker employed on the brick- kiln or industrial organisation. If any injury is caused to any worker, then the employer will immediately report the matter to the concerned Deputy Commissioner as well as to the Labour CRL.W.P.NO.486 OF 2005 5
Inspector. The Labour Inspector will ensure the full payment of compensation to the labourer."
These directions appear to have been observed, more in breach than in compliance. This state of affairs cannot be permitted to continue.
The present petition is, thus, disposed of with a direction to the State of Punjab to implement the provisions of the Act and the directions issued in Crl.Writ Petition No.46 of 1998 in letter and spirit, forthwith.
The petitioners would be at liberty to file an appropriate application/petition/complaint under the Act, to seek an adjudication of their grievances. In case such an application/petition or complaint is filed, it shall be decided within three months.
A copy of this order be forwarded to the Chief Secretary, Government of Punjab, for compliance and appropriate action in accordance with law.
21.3.2006 ( RAJIVE BHALLA )
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