The Supreme Court
on Tuesday asked the National Human Rights Commission(NHRC) to consider framing of guidelines to protect the rights of bonded labourers and to rehabilitate them particularly during the present pandemic when they are allegedly being exploited.
While hearing a PIL seeking court's intervention to protect the rights of bonded labourers, a bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Krishna Murari said that the Commission had already passed order on condition of bonded labourers in some districts of
and asked the petitioner to approach NHRC for further direction. It said that the Commission can decide on framing of guidelines.
The court was hearing a petition filed by a social activist
seeking urgent release and rehabilitation to 187 victims of bonded labour who are being held at three different brick kilns located in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. He alleged that NHRC had passed orders on his three complaints but the state governments did not take any action and he had to approach SC.
"The Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant nation-wide lock-down has intensified every factor of vulnerability that bonded labourers are ordinarily subjected to. From increased isolation to restriction of movement, lack of food supplies, lack of healthcare, non-payment of wages and restricted access to law enforcement authorities, the Covid-19 pandemic has severely exacerbated the abusive conditions that bonded labourers are trapped in. It has also pushed persons who were not originally working in a state of bondage, into a state of bonded labour," the petition said.
The state governments, however, refuted the allegation and told the court that appropriate action was being taken.
The court, after brief arguments, asked the petitioner to approach NHRC for additional direction and framing of guidelines. It also granted him liberty to file a fresh petition in apex court if his grievances were not addressed by the Commission.