BONDED LABOUR SYSTEM (ABOLITION) ACT 1976
THE BONDED LABOUR SYSTEM (ABOLITION) ACT, 1976
ACT No. 19 OF 1976
An Act to provide for the abolition of bonded labour system with aview to preventing the economic and physical exploitation of the weakersections of the people and for matters connected therewith or incidentalthereto
BE it enacted by Parliament inthe Twenty–seventh Year of the Republic of Indiaas follows: –
1.Short title, extent andcommencement: (1) ThisAct may be called the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976.
(2) It extends to the whole of India.
(3) It shall be deemed to havecome into force on the 25th day of October, 1975.
2.Definitions: In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires,-
(a) "advance" meansan advance, whether in cash or in kind, or partly in cash or partly in kind,made by one person (hereinafter referred to as the creditor) to another person(hereinafter referred to as the debtor);
(b) "agreement"means an agreement (whether written or oral, or partly written and partly oral)between a debtor and creditor, and includes an agreement providing for forcedlabour, the existence of which is presumed under any social custom prevailingin the concerned locality.
Explanation: Theexistence of an agreement between the debtor and creditor is ordinarilypresumed, under the social custom, in relation to the following forms of forcedlabour, namely: –
Adiyamar, Baramasia, Basahya,Bethu, Bhagela, Cherumar, Garru–Galu, Hali, Hari, Harwai, Holya, Jana,Jeetha, Kamiya, Khundit–Mundit, Kuthia, Lakhari, Munjhi, Mat, Munishsystem, Nit–Majoor, Paleru, Padiyal, Pannayilal, Sagri, Sanji, Sanjawat,Sewak, Sewakia, Seri, Vetti;
(c) "ascendant"or "descendant", in relation to a person belonging to a matriarchalsociety, means the person who corresponds to such expression in accordance withthe law of succession in force in such society;
(d) "bonded debt"means an advance obtained, or presumed to have been obtained, by a bondedlabourer under, or in pursuance of, the bonded labour system;
(e) "bondedlabour" means any labour or service rendered under the bonded laboursystem;
(f) "bondedlabourer" means a labourer who incurs, or has, or is presumed to have,incurred, a bonded debt;
(g) "bonded laboursystem" means the system of forced, or partly forced, labour under which adebtor enters, or has, or is presumed to have, entered, into an agreement withthe creditor to the effect that, –
(i) inconsideration of an advance obtained by him or by any of his lineal ascendantsor descendants (whether or not such advance is evidenced by any document) andin consideration of the interest, if any, due on such advance, or
(ii) inpursuance of any customary or social obligation, or
(iii) inpursuance of an obligation devolving on him by succession, or
(iv) forany economic consideration received by him or by any of his lineal ascendantsor descendants, or
(v) byreason of his birth in any particular caste or community,
be would –
(1) render, by himself orthrough any member of his family, or any person dependent on him, labour orservice to the creditor, or for the benefit of the creditor, for a specifiedperiod or for an unspecified period, either without wages or for nominal wages,or
(2) forfeitthe freedom of employment or other means of livelihood for a specified periodor for an unspecified period, or
(3) forfeitthe right to move freely throughout the territory of India,or
(4) forfeitthe right to appropriate or sell at market value any of his property or productof his labour or the labour of a member of his family or any person dependenton him,
and includes the system offorced, or partly forced, labour under which a surety for a debtor enters, orhas, or is presumed to have, entered, into an agreement with the creditor tothe effect that in the event of the failure of the debtor to repay the debt, hewould render the bonded labour on behalf of the debtor;
1 [Explanation: For the removal ofdoubts, it is hereby declared that any system of forced, or partly forced labourunder which any workman being contract labour as defined in clause (b) ofsub-section (1) of section 2 of the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition)Act, 1970, (37 of 1970.) or an inter-State migrant workman as defined in clause(e) of sub-section (1) of section 2 of the Inter-State Migrant Workmen(Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979 (30 of 1979).,is required to render labour or service in circumstances of the nature insub-clause (1) of this clause or is subject to all or any of the disabilitiesreferred to in sub-clauses (2) to(4) , is "bonded labour system"within the meaning of this clause.]
(h) "family",in relation to a person, includes the ascendant and descendant of such person;
(i) "nominalwages", in relation to any labour, means a wage which is less than, –
(a) the minimum wages fixed bythe Government, in relation to the same or similar labour, under any law forthe time being in force, and
(b) where no such minimum wagehas been fixed in relation to any form of labour, the wages that are normallypaid, for the same or similar labour, to the labourers working in the samelocality;
(j) "prescribed"means prescribed by rules made under this Act.
1. Inserted by the BondedLabour System (Abolition) Amendment Act, 1985 (73 of 1985) Section 2.
3.Act to have overridingeffect: The provisions of this Actshall have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained inany enactment other than this Act, or in any instrument having effect by virtueof any enactment other than this Act.
ABOLITION OF BONDED LABOUR SYSTEM
4.Abolition of bonded labour system: (1) On the commencement of thisAct, the bonded labour system shall stand abolished and every bonded labourershall, on such commencement, stand freed and discharged from any obligation torender any bonded labour.
(2) After the commencement ofthis Act, no person shall –
(a) makeany advance under, or in pursuance of, the bonded labour system, or
(b) compelany person to render any bonded labour or other form of forced labour.
5.Agreement, custom, etc., to be void: On the commencement of thisAct, any custom or tradition or any contract, agreement or other instrument(whether entered into or executed before or after the commencement of thisAct), by virtue of which any person, or any member of the family or dependentof such person, is required to do any work or render any service as a bondedlabourer, shall be void and inoperative.
EXTINGUISHMENT OF LIABILITY TO REPAY BONDED DEBT
6.Liability to repay bonded debt to standextinguished: (1) Onthe commencement of this Act, every obligation of a bonded labourer to repayany bonded debt, or such part of any bonded debt as remains unsatisfiedimmediately before such commencement, shall be deemed to have beenextinguished.
(2) After the commencement ofthis Act, no suit or other proceeding shall lie in any civil court or beforeany other authority for the recovery of any bonded debt or any part thereof.
(3) Every decree or order forthe recovery of bonded debt, passed before the commencement of this Act and notfully satisfied before such commencement, shall be deemed, on suchcommencement, to have been fully satisfied.
(4) Every attachment madebefore the commencement of this Act, for the recovery of any bonded debt,shall, on such commencement, stand vacated; and, where, in pursuance of suchattachment, any movable property of the bonded labourer was seized and removedfrom his custody and kept in the custody of any court or other authoritypending sale thereof, such movable property shall be restored, as soon as maybe practicable after such commencement, to the possession of the bondedlabourer.
(5) Where, before thecommencement of this Act, possession of any property belonging to a bondedlabourer or a member of his family or other dependent was forcibly taken overby any creditor for the recovery of any bonded debt, such property shallproperty shall be restored, as soon as may be practicable after such commencement,to the possession of the person from whom it was seized.
(6) If restoration of thepossession of any property referred to in sub–section (4) or sub–section(5) is not made within thirty days from the commencement of this Act, theaggrieved person may, within such time as may be prescribed, apply to theprescribed authority for the restoration of the possession of such property andthe prescribed authority may, after giving the creditor a reasonableopportunity of being heard, direct the creditor to restore to the applicant thepossession of the concerned property within such time as may be specified inthe order.
(7) An order made by anyprescribed authority, under sub–section (6), shall be deemed to beanorder made by a civil court and may be executed by the court of the lowestpecuniary jurisdiction within the local limits of whose jurisdiction thecreditor voluntarily resides or carries on business or personally works forgain.
(8) For the avoidance ofdoubts, it is hereby declared that, where any attached property was sold beforethe commencement of this Act, in execution of a decree or order for therecovery of a bonded debt, such sale shall not be affected by any provision ofthis Act:
Provided that the bondedlabourer, or an agent authorised by him in this behalf, may, at any time withinfive years from such commencement, apply to have the sale set aside on hisdepositing in court, for payment to the decree–holder, the amountspecified in the proclamation of sale, for the recovery of which the sale wasordered, less any amount, as well as mesne profits, which may, since the dateof such proclamation of sale, have been received by the decree–holder.
(9) Where any suit orproceeding, for the enforcement of any obligation under the bonded laboursystem, including a suit or proceeding for the recovery of any advance made toa bonded labourer, is pending at the commencement of this Act, such suit orother proceeding shall, on such commencement, stand dismissed.
(10) On the commencement of thisAct, every bonded labourer who has been detained in civil prison, whetherbefore or after judgment, shall be released from detention forthwith.
7.Property of bonded labourerto be freed from mortgage, etc: (1) All property vested in a bonded labourer which was,immediately before the commencement of this Act under any mortgage, charge,lien or other incumbrances in connection with any bonded debt shall, in so faras it is relatable to the bonded debt, stand freed and discharged from suchmortgage, charge, lien or other incumbrances, and where any such property was,immediately before the commencement of this Act, in the possession of themortgage or the holder of the charge, lien or incumbrance, such property shall(except where it was subject to any other charge), on such commencement, berestored to the possession of the bonded labourer.
(2) If any delay is made inrestoring any property, referred to in sub–section (1), to thepossession of the bonded labourer, such labourer shall be entitled, on and fromthe date of such commencement, to recover from the mortgagee or holder of thelien, charge or incumbrance, such mesne profits as may be determined by thecivil court of the lowest pecuniary jurisdiction within the local limits ofwhose jurisdiction such property is situated.
8.Freed bonded labourer not to beevicted from homestead, etc: (1) No person who has been freed and discharged under this Actfrom any obligation to render any bonded labourer, shall be evicted from anyhomestead or other residential premises which he was occupying immediatelybefore the commencement of this Act as part of the consideration for the bondedlabourer.
(2) If, after the commencementof this Act, any such person is evicted by the creditor from any homestead orother residential premises, referred to in sub–section (1), theExecutive Magistrate in charge of the Sub–Division within which suchhomestead or residential premises is situated shall, as early as practicable,restore the bonded labourer to the possession of such homestead or otherresidential premises.
9.Creditor not to accept payment againstextinguished debt: (1) No creditor shall accept any payment against any bonded debtwhich has been extinguished or deemed to have been extinguished or fullysatisfied by virtue of the provisions of this Act.
(2) Whoever contravenes theprovisions of sub–section (1), shall bepunishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years andalso with fine.
(3) The court, convicting anyperson under sub–section (2) may, in addition to the penalties which maybe imposed under that sub–section, direct the person to deposit, incourt, the amount accepted in contravention of the provisions of sub–section(1), within such period as may be specified in the order for being refunded tothe bonded labourer.
10.Authorities who may bespecified for implementing the provisions of this Act: The State Government may confersuch powers and impose such duties on a District Magistrate as may be necessaryto ensure that the provisions of this Act are properly carried out and theDistrict Magistrate may specify the officer, subordinate to him, who shallexercise all or any of the powers, and perform all or any of the duties, soconferred or imposed and the local limits within which such powers or dutiesshall be carried out by the officer so specified.
11.Dutyof District Magistrate and other officers to ensure credit: The District Magistrateauthorised by the State Government under section 10 and the officer specifiedby the District Magistrate under that section shall, as far as practicable, tryto promote the welfare of the free bonded labourer by securing and protectingthe economic interests of such bonded labourer so that he may not have any occasionor reason to contract any further bonded debt.
12.Duty of District Magistrateand officers authorised by him: It shall be the duty of every District Magistrate and everyofficer specified by him under section 10 to inquire whether, after the commencementof this Act, any bonded labour system or any other form of forced labour isbeing enforced by, or on behalf of, any person resident within the local limitsof his jurisdiction and if, as a result of such inquiry, any person is found tobe enforcing the bonded labour system or any other system of forced labour, heshall forthwith take such action as may be necessary to eradicate theenforcement of such forced labour.
13.VigilanceCommittees: (1) EveryState Government shall, by notification in the Official Gazette, constitutesuch number of Vigilance Committees in each district and each Sub–Divisionas it may think fit.
(2) Each Vigilance Committee,constituted for a district, shall consist of the following members, namely: –
(a) theDistrict Magistrate, or a person nominated by him, who shall be the Chairman;
(b) threepersons belonging to the Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes and residing inthe district, to be nominated by the District Magistrate;
(c) twosocial workers, resident in the district, to be nominated by the DistrictMagistrate;
(d) notmore than three persons to represent the official or non–officialagencies in the district connected with rural development, to be nominated bythe State Government;
(e) oneperson to represent the financial and credit institutions in the district, tobe nominated by the District Magistrate.
(3) Each Vigilance Committee,constituted for a Sub–Division, shall consist of the following members,namely: –
(a) theSub–Divisional Magistrate, or a person nominated by him, who shall bethe Chairman;
(b) threepersons belonging to the Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes and residing inthe Sub–Division, to be nominated by the Sub–DivisionalMagistrate;
(c) twosocial workers, resident in the Sub–Division, to be nominated by the Sub–DivisionalMagistrate;
(d) notmore than three persons to represent the official or non–officialagencies in the Sub–Division connected with rural development to benominated by the District Magistrate;
(e) oneperson to represent the financial and credit institutions in the Sub–Division,to be nominated by the Sub–Divisional Magistrate;
(f) oneofficer specified under section 10 and functioning in the Sub–Division.
(4) Each Vigilance Committeeshall regulate its own procedure and secretarial assistance, as may benecessary, shall be provided by –
(a) theDistrict Magistrate, in the case of a Vigilance Committee constituted for thedistrict;
(b) theSub–Divisional Magistrate, in the case of a Vigilance Committeeconstituted for the Sub–Division.
(5) No proceeding of aVigilance Committee shall be invalid merely by reason of any defect in theconstitution, or in the proceedings, of the Vigilance Committee.
14.Functionsof Vigilance Committees: (1) The functions of each Vigilance Committee shall be, –
(a) toadvise the District Magistrate or any officer authorised by him as to theefforts made, and action taken, to ensure that the provisions of this Act or ofany rule made thereunder are properly implemented;
(b) toprovide for the economic and social rehabilitation of the free bondedlabourers;
(c) toco–ordinate the functions of rural banks and co–operativesocieties with a view to canalising adequate credit to the freed bondedlabourer;
(d) tokeep an eye on the number of offences of which cognizance has been taken underthis Act;
(e) tomake a survey as to whether there is any offence of which cognizance ought tobe taken under this Act;
(f) to defend any suitinstituted against a free bonded labourer or a member of his family or anyother person dependent on him for the recovery of the whole or part of anybonded debt or any other debt which is claimed by such person to be bondeddebt.
(2) A Vigilance Committee mayauthorise one of its members to defend a suit against a freed bonded labourerand the members so authorised shall be deemed, for the purpose of such suit, tobe the authorised agent of the freed bonded labourer.
15.Burdenof proof: Whenever any debt is claimed bya bonded labourer, or a Vigilance Committee, to be a bonded debt, the burden ofproof that such debt is not a bonded debt shall lie on the creditor.
OFFENCES AND PROCEDURE FOR TRIAL
16.Punishmentfor enforcement of bonded labour: Whoever, after the commencement of this Act, compels any person torender any bonded labourer shall be punishable with imprisonment for a termwhich may extend to three years and also with fine which may extend to twothousand rupees.
17.Punishmentfor advancement of bonded debt: Whoever advances, after the commencement of this Act, any bondeddebt shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to threeyears and also with fine which may extend to two thousand rupees.
18.Punishment for extractingbonded labour under the bonded labour system: Whoever enforces, after the commencement of thisAct, any custom, tradition, contract, agreement or other instrument, by virtueof which any person or any member of the family of such person or any,dependant of such person is required to render any service under the bondedlabour system, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which mayextend to three years and also with fine which may extend to two thousandrupees; and, out of the fine, if recovered, payment shall be made to the bondedlabourer at the rate of rupees five for each day for which the bonded labourwas extracted from him.
19.Punishment for omission orfailure to restore possession of property to bonded labourers: Whoever, being required by thisAct to restore any property to the possession of any bonded labourer, omits orfails to do so, within a period of thirty days from the commencement of thisAct, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to oneyear, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both; and,out of the fine, if recovered, payment shall be made to the bonded labourer atthe rate of rupees five for each day during which possession of the propertywas not restored to him.
20.Abetmentto be an offence: Whoever abets any offence punishable under this Act shall, whetheror not the offence abetted is committed, be punishable with the same punishmentas is provided for the offence which has been abetted.
Explanation: For thepurpose of this Act, "abetment" has the meaning assigned to it in theIndian Penal Code.
21.Offences to be tried byExecutive Magistrates: (1) The State Government may confer, on an Executive Magistrate,the powers of a Judicial Magistrate of the first class or of the second classfor the trial of offences under this Act; and, on such conferment of powers,the Executive Magistrate, on whom the powers are so conferred, shall be deemed,for the purposes of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974), to be aJudicial Magistrate of the first class, or of the second class, as the case maybe.
(2) An offence under this Actmay be tried summarily by a Magistrate.
22.Cognizanceof offences: Everyoffence under this Act shall be cognizable and bailable.
23.Offencesby companies: (1) Wherean offence under this Act has been committed by a company, every person who, atthe time the offence was committed, was in charge of, and was responsible to,the company for the conduct of the business of the company, as well as thecompany, shall be deemed to be guilty of the offence and shall be liable to beproceeded against and punished accordingly.
(2) Notwithstanding anythingcontained in sub–section (1), where any offence under this Act has beencommitted by a company and it is proved that the offence has been committedwith the consent or connivance of, or is attributable to, any neglect on thepart of, any director, manager, secretary or other officer of the company, suchdirector, manager, secretary or other officer shall be deemed to be guilty ofthat offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punishedaccordingly.
Explanation: For thepurposes of this section, –
(a) "company"means any body corporate and includes a firm or other association ofindividuals; and
(b) "director",in relation to a firm, means a partner in the firm.
24.Protectionof action taken in good faith: No suit, prosecution or other legal proceeding shall lie againstany State Government or any officer of the State Government or any member ofthe Vigilance Committee for anything which is in good faith done or intended tobe done under this Act.
25.Jurisdictionof civil courts barred: No civil court shall have jurisdiction in respect of any matter towhich any provision of this Act applies and no injunction shall be granted byany civil court in respect of anything which is done or intended to be done byor under this Act.
26.Powerto make rules: (1) TheCentral Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, make rules forcarrying out the provisions of this Act.
(2) In particular, and withoutprejudice to the foregoing power, such rules may provide for all or any of thefollowing matters, namely: –
(a) the authority to whichapplication for the restoration of possession of property referred to in sub–section(4), or sub–section (5), of section 6 is to be submitted in pursuance ofsub–section (6) of that section;
(b) thetime within which application for restoration of possession of property is tobe made, under sub–section (6) of section 6, to the prescribedauthority;
(c) stepsto be taken by Vigilance Committees under clause (a) of sub–section (1)of section 14, to ensure the implementation of the provisions of this Act or ofany rule made thereunder;
(d) anyother matter which is required to be, or may be, prescribed.
(3) Every rule made by theCentral Government under this Act shall be laid, as soon as may be after it ismade, before each House of Parliament while it is in session, for a totalperiod of thirty days which may be comprised in one session or in two or moresuccessive sessions, and if, before the expiry of the session immediatelyfollowing the session or successive sessions aforesaid, both Houses agree inmaking any modification in the rule or both Houses agree that the rule shouldnot be made, the rule shall thereafter have effect only in such modified formor be of no effect, as the case may be; so, however, that any such modificationor annulment shall be without prejudice to the validity of anything previouslydone under that rule.
27.Repealand saving: (1) TheBonded Labour System (Abolition) Ordinance, 1975 (17 of 1975) is herebyrepealed.
(2) Notwithstanding suchrepeal, anything done or any action taken under the Ordinance (including any notificationpublished, direction or nomination made, power conferred, duty imposed orofficer specified) shall be deemed to have been done or taken under thecorresponding provisions of this Act.