Mukti Morcha Vs. Union of India & Ors  INSC 190
(13 August 1991)
Rangnath (Cj) Misra, Rangnath (Cj) Punchhi, M.M. Agrawal, S.C. (J)
1992 AIR 38 1991 SCR (3) 524 1991 SCC (4) 177 JT 1991 (3) 408 1991 SCALE (2)306
Labour system--Creation, operation and effect of.
of India, 1950-- Articles 23(1), 39(c), 41, 42--Bonded labour in quarries of Haryana--Government's
fail- ure to implement the judgment in (1984) 3 SCC 161--Measures to take
of India, 1950---Article 32--Letter ad-
dressed to Supreme Court complaining bonded labour--Treated writ petition.
letter addressed to this Court complaining about prevalence of bonded labour
system in the quarries of Fari- dabad District in Haryana_ State was treated as
a writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution.
Advocates were appointed as Commissioners to inquire into the working
conditions of the stone quarry workers.
this Court, finding the necessity of an in-depth investigation into social and
legal aspects of the problem, also appointed two Commissioners--Dr. 'S.B. Patvardhan
and Mr. Krishan Mahajan to study the working conditions provail- ing in the
various quarries within the Faridabad district with particular reference to
violation of provisions of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act of 1976 and
Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment & Conditions of
Commissioner furnished their report on 28th of June, 1982.
Bench heard the matter and In its Judgment (reported in (1984) 3 SCC 161),
dealt with various aspects of the problem and taking into account the
information collected by Advocate Commissioners and the report made by Dr. Patvardhan.
Court did not treat the writ petition as disposed of by its judgment and the
application survived for further monitoring.
Court also appoInted Shri Laxmi Dhar Misra, JoInt Secretary 525 in the Ministry
of Labour, Government of India as a Commis- sioner to carry out the assignments
stated in the judgment.
Misra, in due course, submitted his report in two parts one dealing with the
identification of the bonded labour and the second covering the inquiry into
the implementation of the 21 directives.
petitioner-Morcha, filed a petition for contempt alleging that the directions
were not being implemented.
Jain of the Faculty of National Labour Institute was appointed to inquire into
the measures and report on the degrees to which the 21 directives issued by the
Court had been implemented and to present to the Court a clear picture of the
issues involved for enabling it to make its own assessment and come to a
conclusion as to whether the directions had been or were being implemented and also
as to whether action for contempt was appropriate or in the matter of
monitoring the social problem, some other course was necessary to he adopted,
and in February, 1989, the report was submitted to the Court.
3-Judge Bench had gone into the philosophy in- volved in the matter in the
Judgment, what remains for consideration at this stage was more or less a clear
review of the enforcement of the directives and assessment of the outcome for
achieving the statutory purpose and the consti- tutional goal and for the fulfilment
of the hopes and expec- tations. of this Court in that regard.
matter was heard for some time on the basis of these reports of Mr. Jain and
this Court reserved Judgment on 10th of July, 1990. When the totter was about
to he disposed a communication was received by the Court dated 24.L1991 from
the Director General of Labour Welfare in the Ministry of Labour that the total
number of unrehabilitated bonded laboures was 523 upto 30.11.1990, whereas the
number to he 3993 according to the petitioner and on 21st February, 1991, this
court directed a Committee to check up the particulars and to furnish a report,
which was furnished on July 1, 1991, from which it was understood that the
total number of identified bonded labour is around 2000 and not 3993.
report indicated that the wages, the facility of schooling and medical
treatment, availability of water, provisions and scope for recreation are
aspects which still require attention. No attention has been 526 bestowed by
the inspecting authority. of the labour law enforcers to secure improved
conditions of working.
the petition this Court,
1.-For a loan taken at an exorbitant rate of interest the debtor virtually
sells himself to the creditor and gets bonded usually for a period of life and
renders service for the purpose of satisfying the debt. The creditor anxious to
exploit the situation ensures that the debt is never satisfied and often on the
traditional basis of pious obligation the liability is inherited by the
children of the original debtor. The system thus provides a built-in mecha- nism
for continuation of the under-privileged section of the society by the
privileged few living therein. [537H-538B]
bonded labourers are paid nominal wages and often their family members are not
permitted to take remunerative jobs elsewhere without permission of the master.
Normally, such permission is not granted and the impoverished condi- tion is
allowed to continue to the advantage of the credi- tor, [538B-C]
Quarries ace located in a particular area away from habitation. On account
of*necessity for workmen in the area people from different parts of the country
are made to live therein along with their families under very insanitary and
inconvenient conditions. Health care of workmen and members of their
families-and education of the children as also the adults in such exclusive
locality should be of the employer.
require a school to he built in such an area where there may not be adequate
number of children for the purpose of schooling at the expense of the State
exchequer may not he appropriate. That apart these institutions should he a
part of the trade. In the manner the employer has to make provi- sion for water
and medical care, it should also have the responsibility of providing schooling
for the children of the workmen. Today emphasis is also being given on adult
education. If appropriate facility is provided the workmen beyond their. working
hours can also have scope for learning the three Rs and this could he through a
process of adult education with State support under the relevant scheme.
State of Haryana must come, forward to play its role in a better way. These are
quarries located near about the industrial belt of Haryana and not far away
emanating from the, working area in Haryana is bound to affect adversely ,the Delhi atmosp- 527 here. If adequate
importance is given to the angle of pollu- tion the industry itself has to he regula`ed
or may have to be stopped. [545B-C]
State of Haryana has not taken Court's interven- tion in the proper spirit and
has failed to exercise appro- priate control though some eight years back this
Court had in clear terms laid down the guidelines and had called upon the public
authority to take charge of the situation and provide adequate safeguards.
workmen engaged on fur time basis, who are not prepared to return to, their
States, are to he provided with a permanent base for residence at or near the
would necessitate, reasonable housing, supply of water, a reasonable provision
store at Land, schooling facility, of a hospital, recreational facilities and atten-
tion tO the law and order problem. Perhaps near the area a police statiOn or an
outpost could be located. If the work- ers were insufficient in number, a
doctor could be taken as a visitor to the area at frequent intervals and
instead of a regular school one single teacher could he provided to look after
the health of the people. [545G-546B]
Court's judgment to regulate such matters has inher- ent limitation. These are
not schemes which could be conven- iently monitored by a Court--far less can
the apex court keep track of the matter. its Registry has congestion. To get
attention for a matter of this type from the Court is. bound to take some time.
Human problems in their normal way do not wait for a time-schedule for
attention. in such circumstances, it should be the obligation of the State
which on account of running stone quarries within its area must in various ways
be getting benefits to look after these. aspects. As a welfare State it is now
the obligation of the State of Haryana to
cater to these requirements of the area. [546B-D] 8.. In these circumstances
the State of Haryana was called upon to attend to the needs of the workmen in a
well considered and systematic way.Since those workmen who will be working
there have to be protected from the vagaries of employment and the anxiety of
the employer to draw work without adequate payments, the authorities of the
State of Haryana must take care to protect the workmen from the hands of the:
employer by ensuring compliance with the laws if there he any vacuum in the
laws, the State of Haryana should rise to play the role of a welfare State and.
play it Well.
fact there could be a special cess raised against the quarry activities to*be
specifically utilised by way of return to the industry and there could he a
Special fund.out of which all the amenities could be provided. What is want- ing
is'not power but the mind and alertness regarding one's duty. [546E-G] 528
State of Haryana shall now ensure that the people who have been identified
numbering about. 2000 are continued in work with the improved conditions of
service and facili- ties and such of them who want to go back to their native
areas be treated as released from bondage and appropriate action must be taken
in accordance with Government of In- dia's scheme forthwith. [547D-E] Gupta v.
Union of India,  2 SCR 365, referred to.
JURISDICTION: Writ Petition (Civil) No. 2135 of 1982.
Article 32 of the Constitution of India):
Bhattacharya for the Petitioner.
Singh, K.B. Rohtagi, S.K. Dhingra, L.K. Gupta, S.K. Verma, B.D. Sharma, Mrs. S.
Dikshit and Ms. A. Subha- shini (N.P.) for the Respondents.
following Order of the Court was delivered A letter addressed to this Court
complaining about prevalence of bonded labour system in Cutton, Anangpur and Lakkarpur
areas of Faridabad District in Haryana State wherein the stone quarries workers
are living in most inhu- man conditions, was treated as a writ petition under
Article 32 of the Constitution. This Court appointed two Advocates as
Commissioners to inquire into the working conditions of the stone quarry
workers with particular reference to the cases mentioned in the writ petition.
This Court finding the necessity of an in-depth investigation into social and
legal aspects of the problem also appointed Dr.S.B. Patvardhan and Mr. Krishan Mahajan
to study the working conditions prevail- ing in the, various quarries within
the Faridabad district with particular reference to violation of provisions of
the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act of 1976 and Inter-State Migrant
workmen (Regulation of Employment & Conditions of Service) Act. The
Commissioners furnished their report to the Court on 28th of June,1982.
questions were raised before the Court apart from merit of the dispute; the
important ones being (i) whether an application under Art. 32 of the
Constitution was maintainable, particularly when to allegation: of infringe- ment
of petitioner's fundamental right was 529 made; (ii) whether a letter addressed
to the Court could be treated as a writ petition and be proceeded with in the
absence of support by affidavit or verification;. and (iii).whether the Court
had power to appoint Commissioners or an investigative body to inquire into
allegations made in the petition and by affidavits and require reports to be
made to the. Court for facilitating exercise of its juris- diction under Art. 32
of the Constitution.
concept of public interest litigation had not then adequately 'developed and
its contours sufficiently deline- ated; the practice of accepting letters as a
foundation for a writ petition had not also been clearly established; in writ
petitions the practice of appointing Commissioners or investigating agencies
had not been precedented; the tradi- tional concept of defence of locus standi
has not been wiped away notwithstanding the decision in S.P. Gupta v. Union of
India,  2 SCR 365.
3-Judge Bench heard the matter at considerable length and each of them
delivered a separate judgment. Though the main judgment was delivered by Bhagwati,
J. (as he then was) and Justice A.N. Sen concurred with it by a separate judg- ment
and Pathak, J. (as he then was) while concurring with Bhagwati, J. on some
issues gave his own views. The judgment of the Court was pronounced on 16th of
December, 1983 [1964 3 SCC 161].
Court dealt with various aspects of the problem;
to available literature on material aspects; took into account the information
collected by Advocate-Commis- sioners and the report made by Dr. Patvardhan.
The Court also took note of the position that the Presidential Ordi- nance of
1975 for abolition of bonded labour and the subse- quent Parliamentary
legislation in 1975 were seeking to implement the mandate of Art. 23 of the
Constitution but while statutory provision had been made, taking into account
the fact that the pernicious practice of bonded labour had prevailed in this
country for centuries; the then current social atmosphere had been tolerating
this practice without any serious objection; the concentration of wealth in the
hands of a few and the majority being poor it became conven- ient for he owners
of property and wealth to exploit the poor and in India asocial_ change opposed
to traditional methods was difficult to implement, the Court did not treat- the
writ petition as disposed. of by its judgment and the application survived for
paragraph 39 of the judgment of Bhagwati, J. with whom on that aspect the other
two learned Judges agreed, it was said:
"We accordingly allow this writ petition and issue the above directions to
the Central Government and the State of Haryana and the various authorities
mentioned in the preceding paragraphs of this judgment so that' these poor
unfortunate workmen who lead a miserable existence in small novels, exposed to
the vagaries of weather, drinking foul water, breathing heavily dust-laden
polluted air and breaking and blasting stone all their life, may one day be
able to realise that freedom is not only the monopoly of a few out belongs to
them all and that they are also equally enti- tled along with others to
participate in the fruits of free, freedom and development. These directions
may be summarised as follows:-- .lm20 (1) The Government of Haryana will,
without any delay and at any rate within six weeks from today, constitute Vigi-
lance Committee in each sub-division of a district in compliance with the
require- ments' of SeCtion 13 of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976
keeping in view the guidelines given by us in this judgment.
The Government of Haryana will in- struct the district magistrates to take up
the work of identification of bonded labour as one of their top priority tasks
and to map out areas of concentration of bonded labour which are mostly to be
found in stone quarries and brick kilns and assign task forces for
identification and release of bonded-labour and periodi- cally hold labour
camps in these areas with a view to educating the labourers inter alia with the
assistance of the National Labour Institute.
The State Government as also the Vigilance Committees and the district
magistrates will take the assistance of non-political social action groups and
voluntary agencies. for the purpose of ensuring implementation of the
provisions of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976.
The Government of Haryana will draw up within a period of three months from
today a scheme or programe for rehabili- tation of the freed bonded 531 labourers
in the light of the guidelines set out by the Secretary to the Govern- ment of
India, Ministry of Labour in his letter dated September 2, 1982 and imple- ment
such scheme or programme to the extent found necessary.
The Central Government and the Gov- ernment of Haryana will take all neces- sary_
steps for the purpose of ensuring that minimum wages are paid to the work- men
employed in the stone quarries and stone crushers in accordance with the
principles laid down in this judgment and this direction shall be carried out
within the shortest possible time so that within six weeks from today, the
workmen start actually receiving in their hands a wage not less than the
payment of wages is made on truck basis, the Central Government will direct the
appropriate officer of the Central Enforcement Machinery or any other appro- priate
authority or officer to determine the measurement of each truck as to how many
cubic ft. of stone it can contain and print or inscribe such measurement on the
truck so that appropriate and ade- quate wage is received by the workmen for
the work done by. them and they are not cheated out of their legitimate wage.
The Central Government will direct the Inspecting Officers of the Central
Enforcement Machinery or any other appropriate Inspecting Officers to carry out
surprise checks at least once in a week for the purpose of ensuring-that the
trucks are not loaded beyond their true measurement capacity and if it is found
that the trucks are loaded in excess of the true measurement capacity, the In- specting
Officers carry-ing out such checks will immediately bring this fact to the
notice of the appropriate authori- ties and necesSary action shall be initi- ated
against the defaulting mine owners and/or thekedars or jamadars.
The Central Government and the Gov- ernment of -Haryana will ensure that
payment of wages is made 532 directly to the workmen by the mine lessees and
stone crusher owners or at any rate in the presence of a representa- tive of
the mine lessees or stone crusher owners and the Inspecting Officers of the
Central Government as also of the Govern- ment of Haryana shall carry out
periodic checks in order to ensure that the pay- ment of the stipulated wage is
made to the workmen.
The Central Board of Workers Educa- tion will organise periodic camps near the
sites of- stone quarries and 'stone crushers in Faridabad District for the
purpose of educating the workmen in the rights and benefits Conferred upon them
by social welfare and labour laws and the progress made shall be reported to
this Court by the Central Board of Workers' Education at least once in three
The Central Government and the Government of Haryana will immediately take
steps for the purpose of ensuring that the stone crusher owners do not continue
to foul the air and they. adopt either of two devices, namely, keeping a drum
of water above the stone crushing machine with arrangement for continuous
spraying of water upon it or installation of dust sucking machine and a
compliance report in regard to this direction shall be made to this Court on or
before Febru- ary 28, 1984.
The Central Government and the Government of Haryana will immediately ensure
that the mine lessees and stone crusher owners start supplying pure drinking
water to the workmen on a scale of at least 2 litres for every workman by
keeping suitable vessels in a shaded place at conveniently accessible points
'and such vessels shall be kept in clean and hygienic condition and shall be
emptied, cleaned and refilled every day and the appropriate. authorities of the
Central Government and the Government of Haryana will supervise strictly the
enforcement of this direction and initi- ate necessary action if there is any
(12) The Central Government and the Government of Haryana will ensure that
minimum wage is paid to the women and/or children who look after the vessels in
which pure drinking water is kept for the workmen.
The Central Government and the Government of Haryana will immediate- ly direct
the mine lessees and stone crusher owners to start obtaining drink- ing water
from any unpolluted source or sources of supply and to 'transport it by tankers
to the work site with sufficient frequency so as to be able to keep the vessels
filled up for supply of clean drinking water to the workmen and the Chief
Administrator, Faridabad Complex will set up the points from where the mine
lessees. and stone crusher owners can, if necessary, obtain supply of potable
water for being carried by tankers.
The Central Government and the State GoVernment will ensure that conservancy
facilities in ,the shape of latrines and urinals in accordance with the
provisions contained in Section 20 of the Mines Act, 1950 and Rules 33 to 36 of
the Mines Rules, 1955 are provided at the latest by February 15, 1984.
The Central Government and the State Government will take steps to immediately
ensure that appropriate and adequate medical and first aid facilities as
required by section 21 of the Mines Act, 1952 and Rules 40 to 45-A of the Mines
Rub s, 1955 are provided to the workmen not later than January 31, 1984. - (16)
The Central Government and the Government of Haryana will ensure that every
workman who is required to carry out blasting with explosives is not only
trained under the Mines Vocational Train- ing Rules, 1966 but also holds first
aid qualification and carries a first aid outfit while on duty as required by
Rule45 of the Mines Rules, 1955.
The Central Government and the State Government will immediately take steps-to
ensure that 534 proper and adequate medical treatment is provided by the mine
lessees and owners-.of stone crushers to the workmen employed by them as also
to the members of their families free of cost and such medical assistance shall
be made avail- able to them without any cost of trans- portation or otherwise
and the doctor's fees as also the cost of medicines pre- scribed by the doctors
including hospi- talisation charges, if any, shall also be reimbursed to them.
The Central Government and the State Government will ensure that the provi- sions
of the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, the Maternity Benefit (Mines and Circus)
Rules, 1963 and the Mines Creche Rules, 1966 where applicable in any particular
stone quarry or stone crusher are given effect to by 'the mine lessees and
stone crusher owners.
As soon as any workman employed in a stone quarry or stone crusher receives
injury or contracts disease in the course of his employment, the concerned mine
lessee or stone crusher owner shall immediately report this fact to the Chief
Inspector or Inspecting Officers of the Central Government and/or the State
Government and such Inspecting Officers shall immediately provide legal assist-
ance to the workmen with a view to ena- bling him to file a claim for compensa-
tion before the appropriate court or authority and they shall also ensure that
such claim is pursued vigorously and the amount of compensation awarded to the
workman is secured to him.
The Inspecting Officers of the Central Government as also of the State
Government will visit each stone quarry or stone crusher at least once in a
fortnight and ascertain whether there is any workman who is injured or who is suf-
fering from any disease or illness, and if so, they will immediately take the
necessary steps for the purpose of pro- viding medical and legal assistance.
If the Central Government and the Government of Haryana fail to ensure
performance of any of the 535 obligations set out in clauses 11, 13, 14 and 15
by the mine lessees and stone crusher owners within the period speci- fied in
those respective clauses, such obligation or obligations to the extent to which
they are not performed shall be carried out by the Central Government and the
Government of Haryana.
Court went on to further say:
also appoint Shri Laxmi Dhar Misra, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Labour,
Govern- ment of India as a Commissioner for the pur- pose of carrying out the
following assign ment:-- .lm20 (a) He will visit the stone quar- ries and stone
crushers in Faridabad District and ascertain by enquiring from the labourers in
each stone quarry or stone crusher in the manner set out by us whether any of
them are being forced to provide labour and are bonded labourers and he will
prepare in respect of each stone quarry or stone crusher a state- ment showing
the names and particulars of those who, according to the enquiry made by him,
are bonded labourers and he will also ascertain from them whether they want to
continue to work in the stone quarry or stone crusher or they want to go away
and if he finds that they want to go away, he will furnish particulars in
regard to them to the District Magis- trate, Faridabad and the District Magis- trate
will, on receipt of the particulars from Shri Laxmi Dhar Misra, make neces- sary
arrangements for releasing them and provide for their transportation back to
their homes and for this purpose the State Government will make the requisite
funds available to the District Magis- trate.
will also enquire from the mine lessees and owners of stone crushers as also
from the thekedars and jamadars whether there are any advances made by them to
the labourers working in the stone quarries or stone crushers and if so,
whether there is any documentary evidence in support of the same and he. will
also ascertain what, according to the mine lessees and owners of stone crushers
or-the jamadar or the 536 kedar, are the amounts of loans still remaining out. standing
against such labourers.
will also ascertain by carrying out sample check whether 'the workmen employed
in any particular stone quarry or stone crusher are actually in receipt of wage
not less than the minimum wage and whether the directions given in this order
in regard to computation and pay- ment of minimum wage arc being implement- ed
by the authorities.
will conduct an enquiry in each of the stone quarries and stone crushers in Faridabad
District for the purpose of ascertaining whether there are any con- tract labourers
or inter-State migrant workmen in any of these stone quarries or stone crushers
and if he finds as a result of his enquiry that the Contract Labour Act, and/or
the Inter-State Mi- grant Workmen Act is applicable, he will make a report to
that effect to the Court.
will ascertain whether the direc- tions given by us in this judgment re- garding
effective arrangement for supply of pure drinking water have been carried out
by the mine lessees and stone crusher owners and pure drinking water has been
made available to the workmen in accord- ance with those directions.
will also ascertain whether the mine lessees and owners of stone crushers in
each of the stone quarries and stone/crushers visited by him have complied with
the directions given by us in this judgment regarding provision of conservancy
will also ascertain whether the directions given by us in this judgment in
regard to provision of first aid facilities and proper and adequate medi- cal
treatment including hospitalisation to the workmen and the members of their
families are being carried out by, the mine lessees and stone crusher owners
and the necessary first aid facilities and proper and adequate medical services
including hospitalisation are provided to the workmen and the members of their
(h) He will also enquire whether the various other directions given by us in
this judgment have been and are being carried out by the mine lessees and stone
crusher owners." This Court indicated its expectation in paragraph 40 of
the judgment thus:
have no doubt that if these direc- tions given by us are honestly and sin- cerely
carried out, it will be possible to improve the life conditions of these
workmen and ensure social justice to them so that they may be able to breathe
the fresh air of social and economic freedom." The proceedings thereafter
continued with a view to fulfilling the fond hope and expectation of the Court.
Misra, In due course, submitted his report in two parts-one dealing with the
identification' of the bonded labour and the second covering the inquiry into
the implementation of the 21 directives. The petitioner-Morcha came before the
Court with a petition for contempt action alleging that the directions were not
led to the appointment of Mr. Mahabir Jain of the Faculty of National Labour
Institute-to inquire into the measures and report on the degrees to which the
21 direc- tives issued by the Court had implemented and to present to the Court
a clear picture of the issues involved f.or ena- bling it to make its own
assessment and come to a conclusion as to whether the directions had been or
were being imple- mented and also as to whether action for contempt was appro- priate
or in the matter of monitoring the social problem, some other course was
necessary to be adopted. In February, 1989, Mr. Jain gave a very detailed
report to the Court which is on record and to 'which reference has to be made
in a later part of our order.
Union Territory of Delhi housing the capital of the country is surrounded on
three sides by the Haryana State and on the other lies the State of Uttar Pradesh. The stone quarries of Faridabad have thrived for almost half a
century now on account of building activity in the industrial belt of Haryana
particularly Ballabgarh and Faridabad and
in the Union Territory of Delhi. The quarrying process involves substantial
manual labour and the need of Continuous avail- ability of labour at cheap rate
has led to the growth of the system of bonded labour in that trade. For a loan
taken at an exorbitant rate of interest 538 the debtor virtually sells himself
to the creditor and gets bonded usually for a period of life and renders
service for the purpose of satisfying' the debt. The creditor anxious to
exploit the situation ensures that the debt is never satis- fied and often on
the traditional basis of pious obligation the liability is inherited by the
children of the original debtor. The system thus provides a built-in mechanism
for continuation of exploitation of the under-privileged section of the society
by the privileged few living therein.
bonded labourers are, paid nominal wages and often their family members are not
permitted to take remunerative jobs elsewhere without permission of the master,
Normally, such permission is not granted and the impoverished condi- tion is
allowed to continue to the advantage of the credi- tor. The
Constitution-fathers were aware of this prevailing inhuman practice and in Art.
"Traffic in human beings and beggar and other similar forms of forced labour
are prohibited and any contravention of this provision shall be an offence
punishable in accordance with law." So powerful was the rich men's lobby
that it took 25 years after the enforcement of the Constitution to provide a
definite law for the purpose and the Presidential Ordinance was the first
positive measure in this direction. That got replaced Act entitled Bonded Labour
System (Abolition) Act, 1976. We may point out that the directives in Arts.
39(c), 41 and 42 are also relevant in this regard.It is perhaps not necessary
to delve into the philosophy involved in the matter as the 3-Judge Bench has
gone into it in the judgment of December 1983, and what remains for
consideration at this stage is more or less a clear review of the enforcement
of the directives and assessment of the outcome for achieving the statutory
purpose and the constitutional goal and for the fulfilment of the hopes and
expectations of this Court in that regard and if it is necessary to take
further action and if so, what such action, should be. This will require an
analytical study of, the reports furnished by Mr. Laxmidhar Misra and Mr. Mahabir
Misra in his letter to the Registry of this Court in January, 1984,' indicated
that the inquiry entrusted to him had two phaSes--the first relating to the
inquiry into the implementation of the Bonded-Labour System.
Act, Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of
Service) Act and the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act etc. and
the 539 Second related to ascertaining the extent of compli- ance of the
directions of this Court by the concerned au- thorities. On 4th February, 1984,
this Court directed:
far as ,the consideration of the report of Mr. Laxmidhar Misra is concerned,
the same does not brook any delay involving as it does the release and
rehabilitation of the bonded labourers and amelioration of the lives and
working conditions of the large number of stone quarry workers, we would direct
that the matter be expeditiously taken up." Mr. Laxmidhar Misra submitted
his report on. the second aspect too. His report gave the ultimate indication
that the enforcement of' the Acts covered by the first part of his report had
not been adequate. In regard to the-second part, namely, steps for
implementation of the Court's direc- tives, he also came to hold that nothing
very substantial had been done though some steps had been taken.
3.5.1988, this Court required Shri A.K. Srivasta- va, Director General of Labour
Welfare in the Ministry of Labour to inquire into the matter-again and furnish
a report on the degree to which the directions issued by the Court had received
compliance. Shri Srivastava was not in a posi- tion to undertake this inquiry
and ultimately it led to-the appointment Of Mr. Mahabir Jain, as already
indicated. On 6th of March, 1989, Mr. Jain furnished his report.He took into
account the 21 directives of the Court. As the report indicates,he adopted the
method of interviews, observations, representations, holding of formal and
informal meetings, reference to documents and other available literature as the
basis for collection of information. He spent considerable time in the jhuggi
colonies where the bonded labourers dwell in different parts of the quarry
area. He noticed absence of sufficient drinking water facility, no provision
for school- ing of the children of the bonded labourers and want of appropriate
medical facility. Apart from these, he also found that the jhuggis were very
small, unhygienic and did not constitute reasonable accommodation for human
use. He noticed that there was lack of organisation among the jhuggi dwellers
which facilitated their exploitation by the stone quarry owners. Even though
camps were being organised at regular intervals. for workers employed in the
stone quar- ries and stone crushers by the Regional Directorate of Workers
Education Centre, Faridabad, there was no discerni- ble' impact whiCh would
catch the eye of the visitor. He recorded the statements of several people he
met 540 including workers, their widows, dependants, relations, outsiders and
public officials. He noticed that adequate safety measures were not available
in the mines and several accidents had taken place on that account.
reference to the Workers' Education Centre at Faridabad, Mr. Jain observed:
critical analysis of the camp reports shows mat a few Acts like the Mines Act,
Minimum Wages Act, BOnded Labour System Act, Maternity Benefit ACt. Payment of
Wages Act and Trade Union Act had been given much emphasis in almost all the camps.
In only one or two camps, topics like eradication of social evils, economic
problems, a sense of coopera- tion and the need for organisation of the workers
had been discussed. If one goes back to the camp reports of the Centre for
Workers Education, Faridabad. one finds that the basic objectives of the camps
were to desensitise the workers about their legal rights and the need for
workers organisation. Compared to those objectives, the discussion of the
topics relevant to organisation building had been given less emphasis. Besides,
less emphasis was also on audio/visual method of teaching.
topics discussed in different camps were more or less the same. Therefore,
topics which would create awareness among stone quarry workers need to be
discussed in the camps.
regard to the specific direction of the Court, Mr. Jain noticed that Vigilance
Committees as required under Section 13 of the Act had been constituted in all
districts and sub-divisional headquarters of the State of Haryana and a good number of meetings of
the Vigilance Committees had been held. He, however, came to the conclusion on
verifying the proceedings of the Vigilance Committee at Faridabad that he did
not find any useful information regarding the work of the Vigilance Committee'.
Jain then referred to the report submitted by Shri Laxmidhar Misra to this
Court where he had said that 26 per cent of the bonded labourers had been
released and rehabili- tated by the State Government; nearly 30.per cent of the
identified bonded labourers were not willing to go back to their native places.
At the same time, 41 per cent of. the bonded labourers had left the work site.
According to 541 Mr. Jain, these facts showed that only one bonded labourer out
of every three identified was willing to go back to his or her native place.
Mr. Jain, however, found that most of the bonded labourers who had been
released or rehabilitated came back to the mines--a feature which clearly
indicates that the rehabilitation process was defective and not use- ful. If
the rehabilitated bonded labourer had a sense of confidence in the arrangement
of rehabilitation, there would indeed be no occasion for him to run away from
the rehabili- tative process back to bondage. Mr. Jain found that the task of
identifying the bonded labourers had not been sincerely carried out. It is true
that in 1982 the Haryana Government had instructed all the District Magistrates
to make rehabil- itation schemes for released bonded labourers in accordance
with the Government of India's scheme and contemporaneously or near about that
point of time some rehabilitation had been undertaken. In the absence of
constant goading, the exercise had become sporadic and even fell into disuse.
Mr. Jain found that there had been an increase in the number of bonded labourers
and stone quarries were again thriving. The minimum wage programme had not been
prosecutions had been lodged but that was not adequate and had not generated
the requisite consciousness. Payment of wages had not been properly recorded
and in the absence of documents cross-verification became indeed difficult. The
Commissioner found that even though Mr. Laxmidhar Misra had indicated about
deficiency of drinking water, schooling facility, medical treatment and the,
like, no attention had been bestowed on improving these aspects and he noticed
dearth of these wherever he went. Portions from the conclu- sions of the Jain
report may now be extracted. His report said:
is a technologically backward industry thriving on continuous plentiful supply
of cheap replaceable labour. The impoverished rural -hinterland sends forth an
unending stream of uprooted, assetless, illiterate e people from the
'traditionally oppressed communities, mainly the Scheduled Castes and Tribes.
As workers in stone quarries and crushers, they must remain uprooted, asset-
less, illiterate and oppressed---so that they may be easily replaced; so that
the industry may continue to get its labour cheap." He further found:
is an industry which--in the mineral extraction part-allows unchecked operation
of self-appointed, unregistered 542 middlemen, nicknamed 'contractors' who
perform a variety of functions." His yet further findings were that there
was no account- ability, the trade was ecologically hazardous, there was lack
of planning and the working involved 'an in-built system of criminality. He,
therefore, recommended that there should be central registration of all
workers, conferment of the status of small producers by allocating-permits
directly to them, determining the minimum remuneration, facilitating modernisation,
total exclusion' of contractors and middlemen from the trade and protection and
restoration of the natural environment.
matter was heard for' some time on the basis of these reports of Mr. Jain and
we reserved judgment on 1oth of July, 1990., Swami Agnivesh at Whose instance
this Court had registered the proceeding had undertaken to supply a list of unrehabilitated
bonded labourers. He took quite Some 'time to submit the statements and these
reports indicated their number to be 3993. When we were proceeding to dispose
of the matter a communication was received by the Court dated 24.1.1991 from
the 'Director General of Labour Welfare in the Ministry of Labour that the
total number was 523 upto 30.11.1990. The gap was so huge that we found it
difficult to proceed tO Conclude the matter on the basis of the state- ments
given by Swami Agnivesh by ignoring the situation.
aspects were brought to the notice of the parties and after hearing them, by an
order of 2 1st FebrUary, 1991 this, Court directed:
a view to meeting the situation, we direct that a Committee shall immediately
be set up' with Director General, Labour Welfare of the Union Government or a
very senior officer from his establishment, the'Chief Judicial Magistrate, Faridabad,
Mrs. Raju Ramachandran, an advocate of the Supreme Court with social service
background, an officer from the Haryana Government nor below the rank of
Additional District Commissioner and Swami Agnivesh representing the
petitioner. Mr. Rohtagi or his nominee advocate 'appearing for the brick kiln
owners would be permitted'to associate in the activities of the Committee.
Committee shall within six weeks from now check up the particulars pro- vided
in the list by the petitioner, identify the persons claimed to have been bonded
543 labour and collect all relevant material in respect of them; so as to
assist this Court to make further directions in terms of the re- quirement of the
scheme to rehabilitate them.
course of their movement, for the purpose of complying. 'with this order if
fresh cases of bonded labour are noticed by them they would collect the
particulars separately and report to the Court." The Committee obtained
extension of time from this Court and ultimately has furnished its report on
July 1, 1991.
Committee adopted the questionnaire form to elicit information on all relevant
aspects Which were 18 in number and have collated the material. In a part of the
report it has said:
Committee members have personally identi- fied every person whose name appears
in the list prepared by the Committee. They were approximately 1983 persons so
identified but from each dera there were about 20% per- sons who were not
available for identification either out of fear of the contractor or be- cause
they had gone out that day for buying provisions or to the doctor. Some persons
could not be identified because the Committee missed finding them in their
homes 'and also missed finding them in their places of work.
workers from the list given by the peti- tioner had left and gone elsewhere and
in their place some others had come. There were some persons whose names had
been missed in the list prepared by the Bandhua Mukti Mor- cha. The list of
persons prepared by the Committee is all inclusive of the above iden- tified
categories." In this setting it would perhaps be appropriate to proceed on
the footing that the total number of identified bonded labour is around 2000 and
hot 3993 as stated by the petitioner. It may be that some of the people whose
name appear in the list furnished by Swami Agniyesh are no more in the area. It
may also be that people who had left their work even by then had been included
in that list.
picture placed by the Committee in regard to wages does not give one different
from what had been recorded by this Court when the original case was disposed
of in 1982.
be that the labourers have' become more' informed and educated about their rights.
They have, 544 however, no organised base. They. are the weaker party and once
they are in the trap of bondage the capacity to negoti- ate is gone. That is
how, exploitation thrives notwithstand- ing the intervention of this Court. The
facility of school- ing and medical treatment, availability of water,
provisions and scope for recreation are aspects which still require attention.
Committee has reported:
of order dated 17th October, 1990 of the Chief Labour Commissioner under
section 25(2)(v)(b) of' the Contract Labour (Regula- tion and
Abolition)'Central Rules, 1971 in respect of stone breaker who is a piece rated
worker working in the stone mines in the Faridabad area, fixing the piece rated
wage at the rate of Rs. 133 per 200 cft. stone, there is no implementation
thereof." At another place the Committee has said that though this Court
in the main judgment had indicated that untrained workers should not be engaged
in the blasting operation with explosives the practice seems to' be 'still
'continuing and the law as also the direction of this Court were being violated
by the contractors. The 'Committee, therefore, has recommended that the
principal employer should be made liable for implementation of the directions
both of law and the court. The contractors working under the Haryana Miner- als
Ltd. were mostly unregistered and unlicensed.
Committee has noted that the entire area of opera- tion has a dust cover in the
atmosphere which is hazardous to the workmen's health. No attention has been
bestowed by the inspecting authority or the labour law enforcers to secure
improved conditions of working. There has been divi- sion of opinion as to
whether it is the responsibility of the State Government Or the employer in
regard to providing educational facility to the children of the quarry WorkerS/We
have not been able to see any reason for the difference. Quahies are located. in
a particular area away from habitation. On account of necessity for' workmen in
the area people from different parts Of ,the country are made to live therein
along with their families under very insanitary and inconvenient conditions. Health
care of. workmen and members of their families and education of the children as
also the adults in such exclusive locality should be of the employer. To
require a school to be built in such an area where there may not be adequate
number of children for the purpose of schooling at the expense of the State exche-
545 quer may not be appropriate. That apart these institutions should be a part
of the trade. In the manner the employer has.to make provision for water and
medical care, it should also have the responsibility of providing schooling for
the children of the workmen. Today emphasis is also being given on adult'
education. If appropriate facility is provided the workmen beyond their working
hours can also have scope for learning the three Rs and this could be through a
process of adult education with State support under the relevant scheme.
State of Haryana must come forward to play its role in a better way As already
pointed out.these are quarries located nearabout the industrial belt of Haryana
and not far away from Delhi. Ecology. is not only a focal problem but must be
taken to be a problem of Delhi also. Dust emanating from the working area in Haryana
is bound to affect adverse- ly the Delhi atmosphere. In fact, if-adequate
importance is given to the angle of pollution the industry itself has to be
regulated or may have to be stopped., The State of Haryana, we must say, has
not taken our intervention in the proper spirit and has failed-to exercise
appropriate control though some eight years back' this Court had in clear terms
laid down the guidelines and had called.
the' public authority to take charge of the situation and provide adequate
operation of stone quarries is more or less concen- trated in particular areas.
That is a. feature which facili- tates control. If a local officer of
appropriate status had been placed around the corner it would have helped in im-
proving the lot of the workmen. If the pollution authority, had been made to
visit the area at repeated intervals pollu- tion. control Could have been
imposed. If some authority entrusted with welfare had been made to inspect this
area at regular intervals he could have ensured availability of facilities for
schooling and hospital as also supply of drinking water to the workmen. It, is
a hot belt and for over 4 to 5 months water scarcity is there in this area.The
Workmen's job is such that they are exposed to the summer heat. It is the
obligation of the employer, therefore, to provide a definite source of
water:" The workmen are engaged almost on full time basis. As report
indicates bulk ,of the workmen are not prepared to return to their States. What
is,necessary; therefore, is provision of a permanent base for residence at or
near the work site. This would necessitate reason-' able housing;
of water, a reasonable provision store at hand, 546 schooling facility,
facility of a hospital, :recreational facilities and attention to the law and
near the area a police station or an outpost could be located. If the workers
were insufficient in number, a doctor could be taken as a visitor.to the. area
at frequent intervals and instead of a regular. school one single teach- er
could be provided to look after the health of the people.
judgment to regulate such matters has inherent limitation. These are not
schemes which could be convenient- ly monitored by a court--far less can the
apex court keep track of the matter. Its Registry has congestion. To get
attention for a matter of this type from the Court is bound to take some time.
Human problems in their normal Way do not. wait for a time schedule for
attention. In such circum- stances, it should be the obligation of the State
which on account of running stone quarries within its area must in various ways
be getting benefits to look after these as- pects. As a welfare.' State it is
now the obligation of the State of Haryana to cater to these requirements of the area.
as we find has made substantial. advances compared to many other States of the
country and there is some amount of welcome consciousness in the administration
of the State.
hope and trust that if a direction is issued to the Chief Secretary of the
State to regulate these aspects the repos- ing of trust by this Court would not
turn out to be mis- placed.
these circumstances we call upon the State of Har- yana to attend to the needs referred to above of the
workmen in a wellconsidered' and systematic way. Since those workmen who will
be working there have to be protected from the vagaries of employment and the
anxiety of the employer to draw work without adequate payments, the authorities
of the State of Haryana must take care to protect the workmen from.the hands of
the employer by ensuring compliance with the laws and if there be any vacuum. in
the laws, the State of Haryana should rise to play.the role of a
welfare State and play it well. In fact there could be a special cess- raised
against the quarry activities to be specifically utilised by way of return to
the industry and there could be a special fund out of which all the amenities
referred to above could be provided. What is wanting is not power but the mind
and alertness regarding one's duty.
directions are worked out there would really be no bonded condition and the
workmen would be paid their due-share against employment and with the
facilities ensured they can-live well in the area.
the point of enforcement of the directions as indi- cated above if any one
turns out to be bonded and is freed and is also prepared to return to his
State, the scheme.
by the Government of India would be applicable to such person.
thankful to Mr. Laxmidhar Misra, Mr. Mahabir Jain and the members of the new
Committee for their cooperation.
society to maintain its own elevation requires willing and voluntary
contribution from all those who inhabit it. In a welfare State it is the
society. which has to develop its welfare means. No society can have the
welfare outlook unless geared up on the basis of amity, friendship, coopera- tion,
consideration and compassion. If everyone living in India is willing to believe in the 'live
and let live' principle he would be prepared to devote the same attention to
the people around him as he is willing to devote for himself. This factor, if practised,
would immediately bring about sufficient rejuvenation of the ailing society. It.,
is this elevated society that everyone must look forward to.
therefore, dispose of this petition by directing that the State of Haryana
shall now ensure that the people who have been identified numbering about 2000
are continued in work with the improved conditions of service and facili- ties
as referred to above and such of them who want to go back to their native areas
be treated as released from bondage and appropriate action must be taken in
accordance with Government of India's scheme forthwith. There shall be no order
as to costs.
called upon the State of Haryana:to deposit Rs.20,000 to meet the
expenses of the Committee appointed by us. The Registry will look into that
matter and on the basis of the statement furnished by the Committee put up a
note within two weeks for giving direction regarding honorarium to be paid to
the members of the Committee.