The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Thursday asked the Kapurthala district collector to file a report regarding an alleged case of bonded labour at a brick kiln in the district, after it was informed that the “detained” labourers were beaten up by the owner after police visited the place after a court hearing last week.
A division bench of Justices S. Muralidhar and Avneesh Jhingan in the order said, “At the request of learned counsel for the respondents/state, who seeks time to place on record the report of the district collector, list on June 30”.
The petition filed by activist Nirmal Gorana last week alleged that at least 50 labourers from Chhattisgarh including minors and women were being forced to work as ‘bonded labourers’ at a brick kiln in Sangatpur village of Phagwara tehsil. They were being forced to work for more than 15 hours each day and have been paid no wages for the past two months, the petition said. They were there since February and remained confined there even during the lockdown period.
A single bench of the high court on June 18 ordered the Kapurthala district magistrate (DM) to take a decision on the representation seeking release of the labourers and disposed off the case. The representation sought rescue of the labourers as per the provisions of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act.
During the hearing of an appeal filed by Gorana in the matter, his counsel advocate Arjun Sheoran submitted that no action has been taken in the matter despite violation of the labourers’ rights. Sheoran also orally informed the court that following last week’s hearing, local police visited the area, but the persons were still not rescued.
“After the police visit, the detenues were beaten up and signatures of male members of the group were taken by the brick kiln owner. They were then sent to a local Dera by him. From there they made their way to Chhattisgarh by train,” Sheoran submitted.
The division bench has given Gorana liberty to file an additional affidavit in the case to bring on record the subsequent developments.
In a similar matter of alleged bonded labour from Fazilka, a single bench of the HC had last week expressed surprise over the fact that an assistant sub-inspector was sent to record the statements of the labourers and observed that a magistrate should have been sent for the purpose. The court in that case directed the deputy commissioner, Fazilka, to depute a sub-divisional magistrate for recording the statements of the labourers.
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