BANDHUA MUKTI MORCHA Vs. UNION OF INDIA & ORS.

Court: Supreme Court of India

Citations: (1997) 10 SCC 549

21 February 1997

BENCH: K. RAMASWAMY, S. SAGHIRAHMAD


CASE BRIEF

The Court addressed the significance of safeguarding children's rights to education, health, and development in guaranteeing India's democratic growth in its ruling. While the Court acknowledged that child labour could not be prohibited immediately owing to economic necessity, it determined that practical efforts might be done to safeguard and promote the rights of children among India's poor and vulnerable communities. The Court cited various fundamental rights and directive principles of the Indian Constitution to support its conclusion, including Article 21 (right to life and personal liberty), Article 24 (prohibits employment of children under the age of 14 in factories, mines, or other hazardous industries), and Article 39 (e) of the Indian Constitution (prohibits forcing citizens into vocations unsuited for their age or strength), Article 39(f) (describes the State's obligations to protect children from exploitation and to provide them with the opportunities and facilities they need to develop in a healthy manner) and Article 45 (describes the State's obligations to protect children from exploitation and to provide them with the opportunities and facilities they need to develop in a healthy manner) (mandates the State to provide free compulsory education for all children below 14 years). The Court also cited India's obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child to provide free primary education to all children in the country and to protect children from economic exploitation under the UDHR and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Court referred to and included in directions to the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar the steps directed to ban child labour in a previous case, M.C. Mehta v. State of Tamil Nadu & Ors.

The orders directed the states to take steps to frame policies that would gradually phase out the employment of children under the age of 14; provide compulsory education to all children employed in factories, mining, and other industries; ensure that the children eat nutrient-rich foods; and conduct periodic health check-ups.


FACTS

The Bandhua Mukti Morcha is a non-profit organisation committed to the freedom of bonded labourers. In a letter to the Supreme Court, the organisation stated that they conducted a survey of the stone quarries in the Faridabad District of Haryana and discovered that a large number of workers were working in these quarries under "inhuman and intolerable conditions," with many of them being bonded labourers.

They asked the Supreme Court to issue a writ to ensure that numerous articles of the Constitution and legislation be properly implemented, in order to eliminate the pain, suffering, and helplessness of these workers and free them from bonded labour.

The Hon'ble Supreme Court regarded the letter as a writ petition and constituted a Commission consisting of Mr Ashok Shrivastava and Mr Ashok Panda to investigate the Petitioner's accusations on February 26, 1982.


ISSUE

• Is it possible to sustain public interest litigation under Article 32 of the Constitution?

• Is there a violation of workers' basic rights in this case?


ARGUMENT

• Petitioners asked the court to issue a writ to ensure that various provisions of social welfare legislation, such as the Mines Act 1952, Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act 1979, Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act 1970, Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976, Minimum Wages Act 1948, and others, are properly implemented for these workers working in the said stone quarries, in order to end their misery and suffering.

• Respondent argued that the Public Interest Litigation could not be filed as a writ petition under Article 32, and that petitioners lacked standing to submit the current petition. The Commissioner appointed in this case, according to the respondent, is beyond the ambit of Order XLVI of the Supreme Court Rules, 1966, and hence the stated reports cannot be relied upon. Even if the workmen filed affidavits stating that they had taken advances from the kedar, mine lessees, or stone crusher owners and were not allowed to leave the establishment until the advances were paid off, the mine lessees and stone crusher owners would not be able to cross-examine the workmen making such affidavits.


DECISION

The Court discussed the importance of safeguarding children's privileges or rights to education, security, and health, as well as the progress of India as a democratic society, in its decision. While the Court recognised that a child's work could not be promptly annulled due to financial constraints, it determined that practical efforts might be made to protect and enhance the rights of adolescents among India's impoverished and underprivileged populations. The Court refers to certain core rights and order requirements of the Indian Constitution in its judgement, including.

The Court discussed the importance of safeguarding children's privileges or rights to education, security, and health, as well as the progress of India as a democratic society, in its decision. While the Court recognised that a child's work could not be promptly annulled due to financial constraints, it determined that practical efforts might be made to protect and enhance the rights of adolescents among India's impoverished and underprivileged populations. The Court refers to certain core rights and order requirements of the Indian Constitution in its judgement, including. The Court also noted India's obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child to provide free basic education to all children in the country and to protect children from financial exploitation. The measures requested in M.C. Mehta v. Province of Tamil Nadu and Ors, a previous case, were mentioned by the Court and merged in petitions to the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.The requests included advising states on how to develop plans to logically dispose of the labour of children under the age of 14; providing mandatory training to all children employed in processing plants, mining, and other enterprises; ensuring that the children receive supplement-rich nutrition; and regulating periodic health registration. A petition can be filed by anybody with a good purpose to safeguard the rights of others, and when it comes to the public interest or the welfare of the common people, a simple letter can be considered as a writ petition.

The State Government, which is accused under our protected plan of strategically achieving a further financial request where there'll be social and monetary equity for everyone, correspondence of status, and open door for all, would respect a court order, so that if it is discovered that there are fortified workers or that the labourers are not fortified in the strict sense of the term as defined in the Bonded Ladder, the State Government would respect the court. Regardless of whether the State Government is satisfied based on its own investigation that the labourers are not overworked and are living and working in better-than-average conditions with all of life's essential necessities provided to them, the State Government should not be hesitant to comply with a court request when a protest is filed by a resident, but it should be on edge to satisfy the court and, through the court, the individual.


CONCLUSION

This lawsuit, along with others on the problem of child labour and the scale of child labour demolition disputes, has been successful in bringing concerns to light and putting the matter prominently on the administration's agenda. Child work is being formalised via policy and legislation, and numerous actions, notably in the field of education, are being undertaken to eradicate brutal child labour. One of the effects has been a reduction in the use of child labour in the carpet business. Regardless, a large number of children continue to be mistreated in India, necessitating the urgent need for more solid and increasingly persuasive safeguards for children's rights.



This article is written by Mridula Pandey of Symbiosis Law School Pune.

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