ISLAMABAD – Chief Justice of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) Wednesday expressed his annoyance over the failure of the Islamabad administration and police in ending bonded labour at brick kilns.
A single bench of IHC comprising Chief Justice of IHC Justice Athar Minallah conducted hearing of a petition about bonded labour at the brick kilns and directed the Chief Commissioner Islamabad and Inspector General (IG) of Islamabad Police to ensure that there is not a single case of employment on the basis of “advance (peshgi)” at the brick kilns.
During the hearing, Ghani Muhammad, Labour Officer Islamabad appeared before the court. He was asked regarding the action so far taken to put an end to the menace of bonded labour within the Islamabad Capital Territory.
The court observed from his arguments and assertions, “It appears to this Court that public functionaries do not seem to be taking the matter as a priority. It also appears to this Court that the plight of the labour who are exposed to the intolerable practice of “advance (peshgi) system” is a reality and adequate action has not been taken so far to put an end to it.
In its order dated 2 February 2021, the IHC bench had directed that the Chief Commissioner and the Inspector General of Police, Islamabad Capital Territory shall be jointly and severally liable if there is any complaint or report regarding existence of bonded labour in the Islamabad Capital Territory.
After Wednesday’s proceedings, the court noted in its order, “It has transpired that the practice of bonded labour is not only prevalent but the State functionaries have failed to fulfil their constitutional obligations to put an end to it.”
Khurram M. Hashmi Advocate appeared on behalf of some of the owners of the brick kilns and drew the attention of this Court to the Punjab Prohibition of Child Labour at Brick Kilns Act, 2016 in support of his contention that in the Province of Punjab, legal cover has been provided to “Advance (Peshgi).”
However, the court said that admittedly, the said statute has not been extended and is thus not enforced within the area of the Islamabad Capital Territory.
Justice Athar also noted, “No law can be enacted in violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution nor the abhorrent practice of bonded labour be provided a legal cover in any form whatsoever. The “Advance (Peshgi) system” is definitely a form of slavery and thus unconstitutional.”
He said that this Court is extending an opportunity to the Chief Commissioner and the Inspector General of Police, Islamabad Capital Territory to ensure that there is not a single case of employment on the basis of “advance (peshgi)” within the jurisdiction of the Islamabad Capital Territory.
“In case the public functionaries fail in their constitutional obligation to put an end to the practice of bonded labour i.e. employing persons on the basis of “advance (peshgi)” then this Court will be compelled to summon the Secretary, Ministry of Interior to appear and explain why action may not be ordered against public functionaries who fail in enforcing the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution,” added Justice Athar. He maintained that it is reiterated that employment on the basis of the “advance (peshgi) system” is a form of slavery i.e. bonded labour and thus unconstitutional. Later, the court deferred the hearing in this matter till May 17.