Release damages, sort government matters later: Delhi HC
Rihana Begum was forced to work as a bonded labourer at a Delhi Development Authority (DDA) park by three private contractors in Dwarka’s Sector 7 in february 2014Updated: Apr 20, 2019 07:01 IST
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
The Delhi High Court earlier this month observed that the release of rehabilitation payments to a victim of bonded labour should not await the approval or sanction of money between two governments. The court made these observations while hearing a contempt plea by Rihana Begum, who was forced to work as a bonded labourer at a Delhi Development Authority (DDA) park by three private contractors in Dwarka’s Sector 7.
Justice Najmi Waziri made the observation after Nandita Rao, additional standing counsel (criminal) of the Delhi government, told the court that the proposal for compensation would be sent to the to the Centre for release of the money.
According to the victim, she was employed as a guard at a toilet in the park, opposite Gokul Garden, on February 15, 2014. However, despite cleaning and guarding the toilet, she did not get her salary except for the first month advance of Rs 5,000.
On February 8, 2017, Rihana complained to the sub-divisional magistrate of Dwarka, during his visit to the park, after which she was released from work.
On April 3 this year, the additional district magistrate (ADM) of south-west district convicted three persons for making Rihana work as a bonded labourer. The court had awarded a one-year jail term to Sonu and Jawed Khan, two contractors, for not paying Rihana Begum wages, and imposed a fine of Rs 2,000 on each of them. It sent another contractor, Sanjeev Kumar, to 14 days imprisonment and imposed a fine of ₹2,000.
The court said the victim was entitled to get Rs 6,675 as minimum wage, and since she was getting lesser than that, it is presumed that she was working as a bonded labourer. It directed the station house officer of the concerned area to arrest the accused and take action necessary.
Under the Bonded Labour (System) Act, 1976 , Rihana is entitled to Rs 2 lakh compensation and other due benefits such as employment and accommodation, for being a victim of bonded labour.
In 2017, Rihana had filed a plea seeking release of the compensation and due benefits. During the trial, she was given Rs 20,000 as interim relief. She had also sought criminal action against the accused.
On November 28, 2017, a single judge of the Delhi High Court directed that compensation money be released to Rihana. However, when the ordered was not complied with, she filed a contempt plea
In its April 4 observation, noting that more than 15 months have passed since the order for the release of compensation, the court directed that the Delhi government release the money on or before the next date of hearing.
“In the circumstances, the monies shall be released by GNCTD [Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi] on or before the next date. Inter-governmental matters can be sorted out in due course,” Justice Waziri said.
Advocate Rao also informed the court the employers who had kept Rihana have been convicted and requisite action will be taken against them by the Delhi government.
The court also ordered that a compliance report be filed on or before the next date of hearing, failing which the deputy commissioner of Kapashera will have to be present in court. The matter was listed for further hearing on April 25.
First Published: Apr 20, 2019 07:01 IST