No bonded labourers exist in country: Supreme Court

Supreme Court of India.
Supreme Court of India. File/ GK

New Delhi: A racket is being operated under the “pretext” of forced labour, the Supreme Court said on Wednesday, claiming that there are no bonded labourers in the nation.

In response to a petition filed on behalf of a worker who was allegedly repeatedly raped by a friend of a brick kiln contractor in Jammu’s RS Pura neighbourhood, late social activist Swami Agnivesh made the statement.

“Do you know who are bonded labourers? They are not bonded. They take the money and come there and are engaged by brick kilns. They come from backward areas. They take the money and eat the money and then resign. This is a racket in the country. These labourers only take advantage of this bonded labourer thing,” the bench observed.

The lawyer appearing for Jammu and Kashmir told the bench that an FIR was registered in the case and an investigation was initiated. However, the victim went untraceable leading to the closure of the case in 2018.

The top court noted a detailed response has been filed citing several aspects, and the Jammu and Kashmir government will take remedial steps, if any are required under the law.

According to the petition filed in 2012, after the woman and her husband expressed their wish to return to their native state in June, the contractor refused to relieve them unless they paid him Rs 3 lakh.

Though the husband managed to escape from the camp, his wife and child were kept under illegal confinement.

During the illegal confinement, she was repeatedly raped by the contractor and others, it was alleged.

The victim and her son had subsequently shifted to a rehabilitation home at the intervention of an NGO and police, it was claimed.

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