Union for Civilliberties Vs. State of T.N
 INSC 334 (13 May 1994)
Jagdish Saran (J) Verma, Jagdish Saran (J) Bharucha S.P. (J)
1994 SCC (5) 116
have heard Mr Kapil Sibal, Senior Advocate who appears at our request as amicus
curiae in this matter as well as the other learned counsel appearing in this
case. It does appear to us that no significant progress has been made by the
authorities concerned and it is not unlikely that the attitude of the authorities
concerned is not enthusiastic as one would expect in a matter of such
significance. In these circumstances, we consider it appropriate to make
certain directions for the prompt compliance of all the State Governments
through their administrative machinery. Thus, the directions which are hereby
given are as under- (1) To identify the bonded labourers and update the
existing list of such bonded labourers as well as to identify the villages
where this practice is prevalent.
identify the employers exploiting the bonded labourers and to initiate
appropriate criminal proceedings against such employers.
extinguish/discharge any existing debt and or bonded liability and to ensure
them an alternative means of livelihood.
appoint an independent body such as a local non-political social action group
to collect independent information and details of- (a) the prevalence of the
exploitative practice of bonded labour and (b) employers or their agents
perpetrating the wilful violation of the law by encouraging and abetting the
practice of bonded labour.
provide employment to such bonded labourers as agricultural workers at the
prescribed minimum wage rate and/or provide the landless bonded labourers with
agricultural land, with a view to ensure an alternative means of livelihood.
provide adequate shelter, food, education to the children of the bonded labourers
and medical facilities to the bonded labourers and their families as part of a
ensure- (a) regular inspection by the Labour Commissioner concerned to keep the
contractors who have in the past employed bonded labourers under watch, (b)
setting up of Vigilance Committees in each district, (c) the District
Magistrates concerned to send quarterly reports to the Supreme Court Legal Aid.
or to any Commissioner appointed by the court for this purpose, (d) the setting
up of rural credit facilities such as grameen banks, cooperatives etc. from
which short-term interest free loans can be availed without security, since the
root cause of bonded labour seems to be the lack of availability of funds
(credit through an institutional network).
initiate criminal prosecution against the contractors/ employers or their
agents who engage bonded labour and employ children below the age of 14 without
adequate monetary compensation by paying wages below the minimum wage rate, as
prescribed under the Minimum Wages Act.
initiate criminal prosecution against those employers, contractors or their
agents who make part payment of wages by way of Khesri dal which is known to
cause permanent disability lathyrites. 2. With specific reference to the State
of Madhya Pradesh this Hon'ble Court might consider the following additional directions
provide data to this Hon'ble Court in respect of prosecutions launched against
various employers already identified in proceedings before this Hon'ble Court
as having employed bonded labourers in the context of Harwaha System.
(ii)To investigate and provide data to this Hon'ble Court in respect of the
fate of those bonded labourers identified and allegedly freed from the Harwaha
report the present extent of cultivation of Khesri dal within Rewa and Satna
districts as well as such other districts in which it may also be cultivated.
report the steps taken by the State Government to prohibit the cultivation and
consumption of Khesri dal.
report the fate of persons already identified as suffering from lathyrites and
the steps taken by the State Government to provide free medical aid and
facilities to such persons.
provide the steps taken, if any, for the rehabilitation of bonded labourers
freed from the Harwaha System and the rehabilitation of persons suffering from lathyrites
within the State of Madhya
the State Governments should issue directions forthwith to the Collector and
District Magistrate of each district for making the necessary compliance. We
also direct that all the State Governments would file a detailed report
supported by an affidavit of a Senior Officer indicating the manner and the
extent to which these directions have been complied with and also indicating
therein the programme drawn up for full implementation of these directions. The
report of the State Governments should also contain the detailed information
required to be furnished in accordance with these directions. These reports be
filed by each State Government by the end of August 1994. The matter be listed
in the first week of September 1994.
Registry to ensure that a copy of this order is made available to each State
Government through their standing counsel, in addition to Mr Kapil Sibal,
Senior Advocate and the other learned counsel appearing in these matters.