Legal Aid Cell in Action: Few Case Studies

Landmark judgement of Delhi High Court defines the roles of various agencies on child labour

On 12th June 2009, 46 trafficked bonded child labourers were rescued from zari units in the capital. To provide access to their legal right of rehabilitation after rescue and to ensure that best possible policy is made in all such cases of trafficking of children for forced labour , BBA approached Delhi Legal Services Authority (DLSA) to provide legal assistance.

Mrs. Asha Menon , Member Secretary, DLSA visited Mukti Ashram and interviewed the rescued children. Based on her observations on how better laws on trafficking may be enforced in such cases and how rehabilitation may happen legally, Honourable Justice Mr. Mukul Mudgal, Chairperson, DLSA & Judge, High Court of Delhi wrote to the Honourable Chief Justice of Delhi High Court. This letter was treated as a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) and COURT ON ITS OWN MOTION W.P.(C) 9767/2009.

The Honourable Chief Justice of Delhi High Court, Justice Shri A.P.Shah delivered the judgement in the case on 15th July 2009 laying down the roles and responsibilities of all government agencies involved.

Among the salient features of the judgement is the recovery of fine of Rs. 20,000/-(Twenty thousand) from the employer of each child labourer on the spot without waiting for a conviction. Earlier the recovery was not practically possible due to the cumbersome and lengthy procedure carried out by the labour department.

A second important point in the judgement is a clear direction to the state for taking action under all relevant laws including Child Labour Act, Bonded Labour Act, Juvenile Justice Act as well as the appropriate provisions of Indian Penal Code. This was the biggest bottleneck in the past as the authorities generally used to act under Child Labour Act in case of children under 14years whereas the children between 14 and 18 were left out. Also Child Labour Regulation and Prohibition Act 1986 was only concerned with final employer & if IPC provisions were not applied, the traffickers would often go scot free. Now onwards these adolescents would also be liberated and rehabilitated under Bonded Labour Abolition Act 1976 and Juvenile Justice Act 2000.

Legal aid converges for recovery of missing victims of forced labour

New Delhi, 24th July 2009: A rescue operation was conducted to release some bonded labourers from stone quarries of Charkhi Dadri in Bhiwani district of Haryana on 2nd July 2009. Though somehow Vijaram was found by the rescuing team of the local magistrate and BBA activist, his wife, children and many others could not be recovered. With tears in his eyes, a distort Vijaram told the rescuing team that “I am not going to leave without my wife . I am scared what might happen to them”.

When repeated attempts to recover the missing family failed with the local police and the administration, Bachpan Bachao Andolan(BBA) and All India Legal Aid cell on Child Rights referred the case to NALSA, The Member Secretary of NALSA, Mr. U. Sarathchandran realizing the gravity of the situation and multiple violations of human rights and Indian laws , immediately directed the state legal services authority of Haryana to investigate the matter , provide all legal aid and support to Vijaram and even file a writ petition on his behalf if required.

Upon this intervention by NALSA and Haryana State Legal Services Authority, the district authority had to act fast and recover the family of Vijaram with only their names and the employers' details. In a remarkable tail of the speedy delivery of justice, the family of Vijaram was reunited and 2 other bonded labourers were rescued.

The stone quarries of Charkhi Dadri are notorious for not only the illegal mining of the Aravali hills, the violation of the Supreme Court order, but also for employing hundreds of trafficked bonded labourers in slavery. Vijuram and his wife were working in the Kapoori Pahari of Charkhi Dadri for last 3 years.

Manju, the wife of Vijaram said that we were badly beaten by the contractor Maha Singh during the rescue operation. They sent us in the jeep to the nearby jungle and the rescue team was not able to find us. After the rescue, they again were beating me. Maha Singh told me you can never leave this place. I and my husband worked there for last 3 years but no wages were given to us except wheat, rice and salt. My 3 years old son was rescued with my husband but I was not. Today I am so happy that my 3 years old son is in my laps and we all are liberated.

Not to employ child labour in Slate pencil industry

Child Welfare committee Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh received some information by media that some children were trapped in slate pencil factories of Mandsaur. Acting on the information activist went for the rescue operation alongwith labour deparment and Child Welfare Committee (CWC) members. However the employers received prior information and the kids were not found by the rescue team.But interview with locals suggested that a large number of children are employed in these factories. To provide legal assistance to these children and their families , the local Mandsaur Child Welfare committee sought help from All India Legal Aid cell on Child Rights. Based on the complaint received by NALSA, Member Secretary, Mr. U.Saratchandran, immediately directed the Mandsaur Legal Services Authority to provide legal assistance. A high level meeting of DMs' office, SPs' office , labour department , CSC and local BBA activists , resulted in a task force against child labour.

Upon the intervention of Mandsaur Legal Services Authority, it was decided that NOC would be given to only those slate pencil industries who will give in writing that they will not employ children in their units.

The Mandsaur District Legal Services Authority conducted several programmes with child rights activists on Legal awareness and child rights.

Spontaneous and collective action saved 3 girls from trafficking and prostitution- A intervention by Legal Aid Cell in Bihar

3 girls belonging to a Nat community in Forbesganj; Araria, Bihar were missing and were sold into prostitution by their family members. A local NGO, Apne Aap Women's Worldwide contacted the Legal Aid Cell for recovery of the girls. On the intervention of NALSA and the Purnia District Legel Services Authority the case was taken forward and after lot of efforts by the team the missing trafficked girls were recovered. There was one girl who was victimized by traffickers, a writ petition has been filed to Honob'le High Court of Bihar and notices would be issued to the state government.

Bachpan Bachao Andolan Delhi Legal Services AuthorityNational Legal Services Authority