Read Order: Meena Devi v. State of Haryana and Others

Monika Rahar

Chandigarh, February 28, 2022: While dealing with a Writ Petition filed by the petitioner against their illegal custody by the private respondents who hired the petitioners for making kacha bricks, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has directed District Magistrate, Kurukshetra to treat the Writ Petition as a private complaint under Bonded Labour (Abolition) Act, 1976 and to conduct inquiry and take action in accordance with the law. 

The Bench of Justice Vikas Bahl passed the above-stated directions in terms of the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s decision in Murti v. The State of Punjab and others, LPA No. 32 of 2013

The Court was dealing with a Criminal Writ Petition under Articles 226/227 of the Constitution of India for issuance of a writ in the nature of habeas corpus for appointment of a warrant officer to visit the spot or in the alternative directing the official respondent to get the detenues released from the illegal custody of the fourth and the fifth respondents. 

It was averred in the petition that the petitioner and other detenues were contacted by the private respondents in their village in the month of October 2021 for making kacha bricks at the rate of Rs. 500/- per thousand but were paid Rs.400/-. It was further averred that the respondents kept 7 persons and their family members in illegal custody/confinement against their wishes and were even harassing them. It was also submitted that the said acts were in violation of mandatory provisions of the Act of 1976.

At the outset, the Court made reference to Murti’s Case (Supra) in which a similar fact situation existed and the Court held that if a labourer was detained as bonded labour, it amounted to an offence under Sections 16 & 17 of the Bonded Labour (Abolition) Act, 1976. Thus, the Court directed the District Magistrate, Sangrur, to treat the writ petition as a complaint under the 1976 Act and take immediate action in accordance with the law, in a time-bound manner. 

Applying the above ruling to the present case, the Court disposed of the Writ Petition with a direction to District Magistrate, Kurukshetra this petition as a complaint under the Act of 1976 and to take immediate action in accordance with the law, in a time-bound manner. 

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