Osbert Khaling

Modern Slavery: Minor made to Sleep with Cattle for 3 years rescued

Simon Kerketta Versus State of Punjab and Ors., CWP 14742 | High Court of Punjab and Haryana | Status: Disposed off | |

In 2017, Simon and his two friend left Assam (Native place) for Haryana in lieu of better employment. On reaching Haryana they were dispersed to different place for work, Simon was sent Punjab on the pretext of helping Mr. Rashpal Singh's wife in her household chores as Domestic Helper and was promised to be Paid Rs. 6000.

After reaching Rashpal Singh’s residents, Simon was made to work as an agriculture worker and simultaneously to look after the household chores. Simon was not getting paid for the work he was doing and was made to live in a shed with machines and animals near him. On various occasions he requested his principal employer that he wanted to go home but his plea was rejected stating that his contract for 2 years was not over. Simon was neither allowed to use the toilet nor bathroom of the house, therefore he was made to defecate in open and bath with dirty water which was used for bathing buffaloes.

Due to unliveable condition and no wages he tried to run away on two occasions but failed to reach his destination as being unaware of the locations and areas of Punjab. On one occasion he was caught by police but was handed over back to his principal employer.

Somehow his father contacted us and informed about Simon’s condition. After taking account of the details we wrote representation to concerned district administration for rescue as they District Magistrate/Deputy Commissioner has been empowered to look into bonded labour matter as per Bonded Labour System Abolition act 1976.

On 14.01.2020, Osbert Khaling, Advocate and Pushpanjali Medhi left from Delhi to Patiala, Punjab for the rescue operation. After reaching and discussing with the Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) of Patran, Patiala, Punjab a rescue team was constituted. Thereon we went to the house of Mr. Rashpal Singh and found the boy in deplorable condition. Huge crowd gathered outside and inside the house so the rescue team decided to take the statement of the boy at the office of SDM.

The interrogation at the SDM office, Simon was asked various irrelevant questions by the SDM to which the team from Delhi had objected and requested to ask questions as per Standard Operating Procedure for the Identification and Rescue of Bonded Labourer and Prosecution of the Offender, 2017. Simon narrated his ordeals but the SDM was reluctant to take this matter as a bonded labour case and was trying to comprise the situation by making the principal employer pay his wages. The Principal employer paid Rs. 160,000 via cheque and 15,000 by cash, the wages so calculate were less then minimum wages and less than what he was promised of.

The Delhi team brought Simon along with them to Delhi. The cheque was deposited to the bank which was dishonoured due to incorrect spelling of Simon. Later we sent various representation for issuance of Release Certificate, interim relief, recovery of back wages as per minimum wage and to provide complete rehabilitation but till date no response or investigation has been conducted by the concerned District Administration.

A Civil Writ petition (CWP 14742, Simon Kerketta Versus State of Punjab and Ors.) was filed in the High Court of Punjab and Haryana and the matter was disposed off on 17.09.2020 directing the Deputy Commissioner, Patiala, Punjab to comply and take immediate action into the matter. Thereafter three legal notice were sent to the Deputy Commissioner for compliance of the order dated 17.09.2020 but till date no response have been given. Due to non-compliance of the order a contempt petition (COCP, Simon Kerketta versus Sh. Kumar Amit, Deputy Commissioner, Patiala, Punjab) has been filed on 11.01.2021 which will be listed on 22.01.2021.