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  • Ashi Chouksey

Case Analysis: Bandhua Mukti Morcha vs Union Of India & Others, 1983

Equivalent citations: 1984 AIR 802, 1984 SCR (2) 67


Author: Ashi Chouksey,

IOL, Nirma University


Image credit: Law Corner


STATEMENTS OF FACTS

On February 25, 1982, the petitioner Bandhua Mukti Morcha penned a letter to Justice P N Bhagwati to air their grievances. They claimed that a significant number of workers in stone quarries in the Faridabad district of Haryana were subjected to "inhumane and intolerable conditions" daily, based on the results of a survey they conducted.

The letter's author lamented the appalling circumstances in the stone quarries. A large number of people from all over the nation were forced to work as bonded labourers. Specifically, the message identified and quoted 11 Rajasthan employees, 30 Madhya Pradesh employees, and 14 Uttar Pradesh employees who all felt particularly vulnerable. The letter sheds some light on the plight of quarry employees, who had to rely on unclean water from nullahs and went without adequate housing. All that covered the top of their Jhuggies was a thin layer of straw. Workers were not even compensated for their deaths or the dusty working conditions in the mines.

To ensure that labour protection laws like the Mines Act (1952)[i], the Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act (1979)[ii], the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act (1970)[iii], the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act (1976)[iv], and the Minimum Wages Act[v] (1948) are enforced fairly and equitably, the petitioners asked for a writ petition to be issued.

When the letter was received, the Supreme Court regarded it as a writ petition and formed a committee to look into the petitioners' claims. A notification from the Hon'ble Supreme Court announced that two lawyers, Ashok Shrivastava and Ashok Panda, would be appointed as Commissioners to look into the case. On March 2, 1982, the Commission handed in its findings from its inquiry into stone quarries.

The court assigned Dr Patwardhan of the Indian Institute of Technology to carry out a socio-legal investigation to ascertain the legitimacy of the state's obligations so that the State Government and its staff may take the necessary steps to address the matter.

Issues Raised In Bandhua Mukti Morcha Vs Union Of India And Ors Case[vi]

  1. Will the communication to the judge be considered a Writ Petition?

  2. Was there a violation of the individual's right to life, liberty, or property?

3. The question of whether the Supreme Court may create a Commission.

4. How much does the 1976 Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act apply?

OVERVIEW OF JUDGEMENT

The Hon'ble Court made the right call in this case by directing relevant agencies to deal with the societal issue of bonded labour. Despite the Court's best efforts, its 21 directives won't be enough to help dislocated employees rebuild their lives socially and financially. Even though the judge ordered the Haryana government to come up with a plan to restore workers, that plan fell short. The quarry owners complied with the Supreme Court's ruling and freed 135 bonded workers. On the other hand, they did not change their ways. Ms Neerja Chowdhury drew attention to their terrible apathy after they were freed from servitude by bringing the case to the Supreme Court. The court ruled that the Protection of employees' rights under Articles 21[vii] and 23[viii] requires more than just locating and releasing them and rehabilitation of such labourers to dignified places is much more crucial.

In 1997, the Court requested the NHRC to take over responsibility for monitoring the Court's bonded labour standards. Several restoration-related directives were published in 2004. The court also recognised the worth of non-government organisations, suggesting that bonded labourers' access to their facilities contributed to their eventual recovery. While the Bandhua Mukti Morcha did incredible work, others like Neerja Chowdhury were able to fill in some of the gaps in our understanding of how to restore workers.

ANALYSIS

Regarding the social problem of bonded labour, I believe the Supreme Court has done the right thing by referring the directions to the proper authority in the hopes of raising public consciousness of the issue of child labour. The Supreme Court's ruling provided victims with justice and was supported by reasonable justification. In my opinion, the petitioners and others like them can once again put their faith in the judicial system thanks to the Supreme Court's orders in the current case. The Supreme Court's reasoning ran counter to that of the State Government, but it made compelling arguments and ultimately emerged as the real guardian of society. Thus, the verdict was truly remarkable and consequential, as no one has a right to be handled badly or to endure a life devoid of human decency. As the highest authority in the land, the Supreme Court must prevent injustice from happening to its citizens. Due to widespread illiteracy and ignorance of one's rights, the affluent and powerful can exploit the weak and employ unjust measures that put them in danger. As a result, the public and the judiciary's trustworthiness would have suffered if the bonded employees' voices had not been heard and they had been denied the rights to which they were entitled. Due to this, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the bound workers, upholding their constitutional rights.

CONCLUSION

Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India & Ors[ix] is a seminal legal battle in the fight to end indentured servitude in India. As of 1976, the United Kingdom no longer uses bonded labour. Article 21[x] makes it crystal clear that bonded workers must be found, let go, and given proper treatment. This law was enacted under the state's DPSP to ensure the safety and respect of confined workers. It would be a violation of Article 21[xi] of the Indian Constitution if the government did not step in to prevent this.

REFERENCES [i] Mines Act, 1952, No. 35, Act of Parliament, 1952 (India) [ii] Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service), 1979, No. 30, Act of Parliament, 1979 (India) [iii] Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition), 1970, No. 3, Act of Parliament, 1970 (India) [iv] Bonded Labour System (Abolition), 1976, No. 19, Act of Parliament, 1976 (India) [v] Minimum Wages Act, 1948, No. 11, Act of Parliament (India) [vi] Bandhua Mukti Morcha Vs Union Of India And Ors Case, AIR 1984 SC 802 [vii] Indian Constitution, art 21 [viii] Indian Constitution, art 23 [ix] Bandhua Mukti Morcha Vs Union Of India And Ors Case, AIR 1984 SC 802 [x] Indian Constitution, art 21 [xi] Indian Constitution, art 21

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