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CHILD Protection & Child Rights » IV. National Mechanisms » Child Related Legislations » Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976


In 2002, UNICEF issued a press release about the shocking number of children working. The latest ILO report stated that every one in six children work, with millions engaged in bonded or forced labour. Article 23(1) of the Indian Constitution bans "beggar" and other forms of forced labour. Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976 talks of the illegality of slave or bonded labour with reference to both adults and children. In the following section is an outline of the law as it pertains to children below the age of 18. This law does not outline a more severe punishment for offences committed against a child.

The act renders all bonded labour systems (agreements, pacts, tradition, custom, etc) to be null and void and hence frees all bonded labours from their debt to the creditors. It also bans any person shall pursue or compel a person to enter into forced labour or a bonded labour system. Victims of bonded labour are not liable to repay their debt, and any property that was taken from the bonded labourer is to be restored. All legal proceeding against bonded labourers for inability to replay their debt or abide by the bonded system are dismissed. As per the law, the bonded labour can not be evicted from his home even when the bonded system has been dissolved. Creditors are not permitted to accept any payments and those who do are punishable up to three years of imprisonment and fine.

The act allows for the state to appoint a district magistrate and officers authorised by him to over see the legal implementation of the act. It also requires that the state set up vigilance committees in every district or sub-section. These committees are responsible for ensuring the full rehabilitation and recovery of all bonded labourers, defending any suit against a bonded labourer and advising the district magistrate to take action and uphold the law. The act maintains that burden of proof lies on the creditor to prove a particular debt is not bonded in nature.

Any per who extends an advance on bonded labour is liable to imprisonment up to three years and a fine up to Rs. 2000. In addition to this punishment, a person who extracts bonded labour in the form of a bonded system from an individual is liable to pay that individual Rs 5 for every day of labour extracted out of the fine. The same punishment is levied against any individual who fails to return property to a bonded labourer that was procured as part of the bonded system. A person who had abetted an offence is also liable to the same punishment as a person who has committed the offence.

Under this act all offences are to be tried by an executive magistrate that has the powers of a second or first class judicial magistrate, appointed by the state government. Companies who commit bonded labour offences are held responsible as well as the person in charge of the conduct of the business are also held responsible. All offences under this act are cognizable and bailable

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