Supreme Court Issues An Immediate Notice to Release Bonded Laborers

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Brief Facts of the Case

Coronavirus has brought India to a halt. But, this is not the case with everyone. A large number of labourers are outside the umbrella of socio-economic security. They have no other option but to work despite the current situation, such as bonded laborers.

Social worker Zahid Hussain filed the plea in the Apex Court to release 187 bonded labourers. These labourers are from three different brick kilns in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Further, they are victims to hard and physical labor. Moreover, they work in poor and inhuman conditions and get as low as one meal a day. The bench in this case comprises of Justice L. Nageswara Rao and Justice Ravindra Bhat.

Arguments Before the Court

The petitioner seeks attention from the Court to frame guidelines for the laborers. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they need rescue and rehabilitate on an urgent basis. Even Bonded Labour Abolition Act, 1976 is unable to fulfil its purpose in the current time. These bonded labours also include pregnant women, children, and infants. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has made it more difficult for them to survive.

Currently, there is a restriction of their movement, non-payment of wages, lack of food supplies, healthcare, and poor standards of living. The petitioner put light on NHRC’s directions. Here, NHRC directed the district magistrate of U.P and Bihar to inquire and file an action report in 15 days. Despite this, the inquiry situation remained without any effective implementation. An example can be seen in the inefficiency, when the administration asked the labourers to continue working. Sadly, they have no other option but to live at the mercy of brick kiln owners.

 Court’s Observations

It was observed that the District administration failed to make arrangements to move labors. There were no release certificates or wages for labourers. In such a situation, the labourers are vulnerable and don’t have even basic human needs. The Petitioner pointed at the violation of section 4 and section 12 of the Bonded Labour Act,1976 as there is no release of bonded labour. Moreover, the authorities failed to provide a 24-hour timeline of the rescue after receiving complaints. The provision of the CS scheme which assures immediate help up to Rs.20,000 is also neglected in the present case.

Details of the PIL

The PIL submits the violation of Article 23, Article 24, and Article 21 under the Constitution. Over and above, these rights cannot be ignored in this Pandemic situation. In the present case, the violations are of the Right to Life, Propagation of Forced Labor and Child Labor. After taking note of the same, the petitioner states that authorities should frame a new plan for a pandemic. Further, this action plan should protect laborers from sexual violence and provide for healthcare. There should also be the release of their wages. Further, they should be assured the right to movement, and that steps against bonded labor owners should also be taken.

Court’s Order

The Supreme Court issued the notice for the immediate release of bonded laborers and to provide them with rehabilitation. Moreover, authorities of Bihar and U.P are required to take action at all three different brick kilns on an urgent basis.


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