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BONDED LABOUR SYSTEM (ABOLITION) ACT

Ministry of Law and Justice

Act nº 19 of 1976


  • Chapter I
  • Chapter II
  • Chapter III
  • Chapter IV
  • Chapter V
  • Chapter VI
  • Chapter VII
  • Act nº 19 of 1976

Preamble

THE BONDED LABOUR SYSTEM (ABOLITION) ACT, 1976

[Act, No. 19 of 1976]

[9th February, 1976]

Arrangement of Section

PREAMBLE

An Act to provide for the abolition of bonded labour system with a view to preventing the economic and physical exploitation of the weaker sections of the people and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

BE it enacted by Parliament in the Twenty-seventh Year of the Republic of India as follows:

Chapter I

Section 1. Short title, extent and commencement

(1) This Act may be called the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976.

(2) It extends to the whole of India.

(3) It shall be deemed to have come into force on the 25th day of October, 1975.

Section 2. Definitions

Inthis Act, unless the context otherwise requires-

(a)"advance" means an advance, whether in cash or in kind, or partly incash or partly in kind, made by one person (hereinafterreferred to as the creditor) to another person (hereinafter referred to as thedebtor);

(b)"agreement" means as agreement (whether written or oral, or partlywritten and partly oral) between a debtor and creditor, and includes anagreement providing for forced labour, the existence of which is presumed underany social custom prevailing in the concerned locality.

Explanation. -The existence of an agreementbetween the debtor and creditor is ordinarily presumed, under the social custom,in relation to the following forms of forced labour, namely:-

Adiyamar, Baramasia,Basahya, Bethu, Bhagela, Cherumar, Garru-Galu, Hali, Hari, Harwai, Holya, Jana,Jeetha, Kamiya, Khundit-Mundit, Kuthia, Lakhari, Munjhi, Mat, Munish system,Nit-Majoor, Paleru, Padiyal, Pannayilal, Sagri, Sanji, Sanjawat, Sewak, Sewakia,Seri, Vetti;

(c)"ascendant" or "descendant", in relation to a personbelonging to a matriarchal society, means the person who corresponds to suchexpression in accordance with the law of succession in force in such society;

(d)"bonded debt" means an advance obtained, or presumed to have beenobtained, by a bonded labourer under, or in pursuance of the bonded laboursystem;

(e)"bonded labour" means any labour or service rendered under the bondedlabour system;

(f)"bonded labourer" means a labourer who incurs, or has, or is presumedto 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) and inconsideration of the interest, if any, due on such advance, or

(ii)in pursuance of any customary or social obligation, or

(iii)in pursuance of an obligation devolving on him by succession, or

(iv)for any economic consideration received by him or by any of his linealascendants or descendants, or

(v)by reason of his birth in any particular caste or community-

hewould-

(1)render, by himself or through anymember of his family, or any person dependent on him, labour or service to thecreditor, or for the benefit of the creditor, for a specified period or for anunspecified period, either without wages or for nominal wages, or

(2)for the freedom of employment or other means of livelihood for a specifiedperiod or for an unspecified period, or

(3)forfeit the right to move freely throughout the territory of India, or

(4)forfeit the right to appropriate or sell at market value any of his property orproduct of his labour or the labour of a member of his family or any persondependent on him, andincludes the system of forced, or partly forced, labour under which a surety fora debtor enters, or has, or is presumed to have, entered, into an agreement withthe credit or to the effect that in the event of the failure of the debtor torepay the debt, he would render the bonded labour on behalf of the debtor;

1 [Explanation.-For the removal of doubts, it is hereby declared that any system offorce or partly forced labour under which any workman being contract labour asdefined in clause (b) of sub-section (1) of section 2 of the Contract Labour(Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970 (73 of 1970), or an inter-State migrantworkman as defined in clause (e) of sub-section (1) of section 2 of theInter-state Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service)Act, 1979 (30 of 1979), is required to render labour or service in circumstancesof the nature mentioned in sub-clause (1) of this clause or is subjected to allor any of the disabilities referred 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 anddescendant of such person;

(i)"nominal wages", in relation to any labour, means a wage which is lessthan-

(a) theminimum wages fixed by the Government, in relation to the same or similar labour,under any law for the time being in force, and

(b) whereno such minimum wage has been fixed in relation to any form of labour, the wagesthat are normally paid, for the same or similar labour, to the labourers workingin the same locality;

(j)"prescribed" means prescribed by rules made under this Act.

1.Inserted by Act 73 of 1985, Section 2.


Section 3. Act to have over-riding effect

The provisions of this Act shall have effect notwithstanding anything in consistent therewith contained in any enactment other than this Act, or in any instrument having effect by virtue of any enactment other than this Act.

Chapter II

Section 4. Abolition of bonded labour system

(1) On the commencement of this Act, the bonded labour system shall stand abolished any every bonded labourer shall, on such commencement, stand freed and discharged from any obligation to render any bonded labour.

(2) After the commencement of this Act, no person shall

(a) make any advance under, or in pursuance of, the bonded labour system, or

(b) compel any person to render any bonded labour or other form of forced labour.

Section 5. Agreement, custom, etc., to be void

On the commencement of this Act, any custom or tradition or any contract, agreement or other instrument (whether entered into or executed before or after the commencement of this Act) by virtue of which any person, or any member of the family or dependent of such person, is required to do any work or render any service as a bonded labourer, shall be void and inoperative.

Chapter III

Section 6. Liability to repay bonded debt to stand extinguished

(1) On the commencement of this Act every obligation of a bonded labourer to repay any bonded debt or such part of any bonded debt as remains unsatisfied immediately before such commencement, shall be deemed to have been extinguished.

(2) After the commencement of this Act, no suit or other proceeding shall lie in any civil court or before any other authority for the recovery of any bonded debt or any part thereof

(3) Every decree or order for the recovery of bonded debt, passed before the commencement of this Act and not fully satisfied before such commencement, shall be deemed, on such commencement, to have been fully satisfied.

(4) Every attachment made before the commencement of this Act, for the recovery of any bonded debt, shall, on such commencement, stand vacated; and, where, in pursuance of such attachment, any movable property of the bonded labourer was seized and removed from his custody and kept in the custody of any court or other authority pending sale thereof, such movable property shall be restored, as soon as may be practicable after such commencement to the possession of the bonded labourer.

(5) Where, before the commencement of this Act, possession of any property belonging to a bonded labourer or a member of his family or other dependent was forcibly taken over by any creditor for the recovery of any bonded debt, such property 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 the possession of any property referred to in sub-section (4) or subsection (5) is not made within thirty days from the commencement of this Act, the aggrieved person may, within such time as may be prescribed, apply to the prescribed authority for the restoration of the possession of such property and the prescribed authority may, after giving the creditor a reasonable opportunity of being heard, direct the creditor to restore to the applicant the possession of the concerned property within such time as may be specified in the order.

(7) An order made by any prescribed authority, under sub-section (6), shall be deemed to be an order made by a civil court and may be executed by the court of the lowest pecuniary jurisdiction within the local limits of whose jurisdiction the creditor voluntarily resides or carries on business or personally works for gain.

(8) For the avoidance of doubts, it is hereby declared that, where any attached property was sold before the commencement of this Act, in execution of a decree or order for the recovery of a bonded debt, such sale shall not be affected by any provision of this Act:

Provided that the bonded labour, or an agent authorised by him in this behalf, may, at any time within five years from such commencement, apply to have the sale set aside on his depositing in court for payment to the decree-holder, the amount specified in the proclamation of sale, for the recovery of which the sale was ordered, less any amount, as well as mesne profits, which may, since the date of such proclamation of sale, have been received by the decree-holder.

(9) Where any suit or proceeding, for the enforcement of any obligation under the bonded labour system, including a suit or proceeding for the recovery of any advance mad to a bonded labourer, is pending at the commencement of this Act, such suit or other proceeding shall, on such commencement, stand dismissed.

(10) On the commencement of this Act, every bonded labourer who has been detained in civil prison, whether before or after judgment, shall be released from detention forthwith.

Section 7. Property of bonded labourer to 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 encumbrances in connection with any bonded debt shall, in so far as it is relatable to the bonded debt, stand freed and discharged from such mortgage, charge, lien or other incumbrances, and where any such property was, immediately before the commencement of this Act, in the possession of the mortgagee or the holder of the charge, lien or incumbrance, such property shall (except where it was subject to any other charge), on such commencement, be restored to the possession of the bonded labourer.

(2) If any delay is made in restoring any property referred to in sub-section (1) to the possession of the bonded labourer, such labourer shall be entitled, on and from the date of such commencement, to recover from the mortgagee or holder of the lien, charge or incumbrance, such mesne profits as may be determined by the civil court of the lowest pecuniary jurisdiction within the local limits of whose jurisdiction such property is situated.

Section 8. Freed bonded labourer not to be evicted from homestead, etc

(1) No person who has been freed and discharged under this Act from any obligation to render any bonded labour, shall be evicted from any homestead or other residential premises which he was occupying immediately before the commencement of this Act as part of the consideration for the bonded labour.

(2) If, after the commencement of this Act, any such person is evicted by the creditor from any homestead or other residential premises, referred to in sub-section (1), the Executive Magistrate in charge of the Sub-Division within which such homestead or residential premises is situated shall, as early as practicable, restore the bonded labourer to the possession of such homestead or other residential premises.

Section 9. Creditor not to accept payment against extinguished debt

(1) No creditor shall accept any payment against any bonded debt which has been extinguished or deemed to have been extinguished or fully satisfied by virtue of the provisions of this Act.

(2) Whoever contravenes the provisions of sub-section (1), shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and also with fine.

(3) The court, convicting any person under sub-section (2) may, in addition to the penalties which may be imposed under that sub-section, direct the person to deposit, in court, 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 to the bonded labourer.

Chapter IV

Section 10. Authorities who may be specified for implementing the provisions of this Act

The State Government may confer such powers and impose such duties on a District Magistrate as may be necessary to ensure that the provisions of this Act are properly carried out and the District Magistrate may specify the officer, subordinate to him, who shall exercise all or any of the powers, and perform all or any of the duties, so conferred or imposed and the local limits within which such powers or duties shall be carried out by the officer so specified.