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Above: Delhi High Court

A petition by Nirmal Gorana has informed the Delhi High Court bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar that not only is it that bonded labour, especially relating to children, is still flourishing in this country, there has been no financial assistance paid to those who have been rescued from bondage, despite there being a legal facility for that.

The court has issued notice all around for immediate status reports and the bench, it seems, has taken this extremely seriously.

The matter pertains to the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976. The petitioner has contended that bonded labour system has been abolished by law throughout the country with effect from October 25, 1975 under the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Ordinance which was replaced by the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976. Under the act, it is the responsibility of state governments to identify, release and rehabilitate the bonded labourer.

The act affords protection to the freed bonded labourers from eviction from their homestead. District administrations are mandated to restore the bonded labourer to the possession of such homestead or other residential premises as early as practicable. The act also provides for the economic and social rehabilitation of the freed bonded labourers.

In order to assist the state governments in the task of rehabilitation of identified and released bonded labourers, a Centrally Sponsored Plan Scheme for Rehabilitation of Bonded Labour was in operation since May, 1978.  The Government has revamped the Centrally Sponsored Plan Scheme for Rehabilitation of Bonded Labourers with effect from May 17, 2016.  The revamped scheme is known as the ‘Central Sector Scheme for Rehabilitation of Bonded Labourers, 2016’.

The scheme says that financial assistance should be given to persons who were rescued from bonded labour and the amount should be increased from Rs 20,000 to Rs 2 lakh per person. It also says that rehabilitation is necessary and the government shall provide every basic facility.

The petitioner said that since then no rehabilitation has been done as per the guidelines of the act and children who were rescued have been left deserted. The petitioner referred to an illegal organisation working in Delhi called ‘RB Consultancy’ which works to provide domestic help in various states. The petitioner contended that those children are sent to various other states through this consultancy and work in homes, and they don’t even get paid.

He further stated that they have registered a complaint against this consultancy and a case is pending in a lower court.

The Delhi High Court on Monday issued notices to Delhi Police and Rahul Mehra, their senior standing counsel, accepted the notice. Notice was also issued to Monika Arora, Govt of NCT of Delhi.

The court order intends to enforce the bonded labour rehabilitation scheme. The order said that the it is a statutory mandate, but nothing has been done so far.

The court said: “It is informed to this court that an FIR against bonded labour has been registered and in those cases in Moti Nagar Station. But no action has been taken on these cases, which is in violation of the constitutional act. These are serious allegation by the petitioner and petitioner additionally expressed a grievance that the respondents not working for the rehabilitation of the bonded labour.

“Let the status report be filed under the signature of the concerned DCP of area where FIR is registered. Notice to Secretary DLSA. Send notice to SHO. Respondents No 6-8.”

Notices were also issued on Respondents No 6 “child welfare committee” and Respondents No 8 National Human Rights Commission NHRC”, as well as Respondents 9 Joint Commissioner of Police Malviya Nagar, the Labour commissioner, the Commissioner of Police, to the UoI who shall file status report regarding all available scheme for child labour.

 —India Legal Bureau

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