Read Order: Lokman Miah v. State of Haryana and others 

Vivek Gupta

Chandigarh, July 14, 2021: The Punjab and Haryana High Court has converted a habeas corpus petition as a complaint under the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 and issued direction to the District Magistrate, Jhajjar, to take immediate action in accordance with the law.

Habeas corpus is a recourse in law through which a person can report an unlawful detention or imprisonment to a court and request that the court order the custodian of the person, usually a prison official, to release the detenues.

In the present case, the petitioner, Lokman Miah, filed a petition under Articles 226/227 of the Constitution of India for issuance of a writ in the nature of habeas corpus directing government authorities to release the detenues, working as bonded brick kiln workers, from the illegal detention of the private respondents.

While passing directions, the bench of Justice Arvind Singh Sangwan cited  Murti versus The State of Punjab and others to observe, “It may be mentioned here that the allegations of the appellant in the writ petition are that the alleged detenues who are working as labourers at the brick kiln of respondent are being kept as bonded labours. There can indeed be no doubt that if a labourer has been detained as bonded labour, it amounts to an offence under Sections 16 & 17 of the Bonded Labour (Abolition) Act, 1976.” 

The bench, however, clarified that “the aforesaid observation does not mean that the allegations levelled by the appellant have been accepted”. 

“Suffice it to observe that under the Act, the District Magistrate is under statutory obligation to hold a fact finding enquiry as and when a complaint alleging violation of the provisions of Bonded Labour (Abolition) Act, 1976 is received,” the bench said.

The HC further said, “Since the appellant in the instant case has specifically averred that the persons mentioned in the petition have been detained as bonded labourers, we allow this appeal and set aside/modify the order dated 9.1.2013 passed by the learned Single Judge to the extent that the petitioner’s writ petition is disposed of with a direction to the District Magistrate, Sangrur, to treat this writ petition as a complaint under the 1976 Act and take immediate action in accordance with law, within a period of one week from the date of receiving a certified copy of this order alongwith a copy of the writ petition”.

 “Accordingly, this Criminal Writ Petition is disposed of with a direction to District Magistrate, Jhajjar to treat this petition as a complaint under the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 and take immediate action in accordance with law, within a period of one week from the date of receiving a certified copy of this order,” stated the Judge.

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