The Delhi High Court sought the responses of the city government and police on Thursday on a plea moved by an NGO, alleging that its members were attacked while they were carrying out a raid to rescue child labourers from industrial units.
The NGO, Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), said a team comprising its members, members of its partner NGO and government officials were carrying out a rescue operation for child labourers when they were brutally attacked by a mob, leading to injuries to many of them.
It said all the rescued children, except one, were snatched by the mob allegedly at the behest of traffickers.
A bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad issued a notice on the application and asked the authorities concerned to respond to it within four weeks.
The court has listed the matter for further hearing on August 4.
The high court, which had earlier directed that minors found working in industrial units be rescued and rehabilitated, had observed that children who ought to have been studying in schools were forced to work at these unhygienic and inhabitable places where accidents were waiting to happen.
The court was hearing an application filed by the NGO, seeking directions to the authorities for immediate action in the matter, including placing the alleged offenders under arrest and tracing out the 20-25 children forcibly snatched away from the rescue team by the mob.
The NGO’s application, filed through advocate Prabhsahay Kaur, has also sought directions to the authorities to plan a large-scale operation in the Agar Nagar and Mubarakpur dhaba areas of Delhi with an adequate police force and rescue the child labourers working there.
The plea was filed by the NGO in the aftermath of a fire tragedy that killed more than 40 people, including several minors, at a factory in the Anaj Mandi area here in December 2019.
The NGO has also sought a direction to the authorities to inquire into the angle of trafficking and child labour.
In its fresh application, the NGO has said the children were found cramped in small, unventilated places, they were dehydrated and malnourished and were carrying out cutting work with blades, scissors and machines for sewing purses and belts.
“The worst part of the attack has been on a female member … representative of the petitioner’s partner NGO, Bal Vikas Dhara, who was sexually assaulted and molested. The unruly mob consisting of men gave calls to tear her clothes and parade her. It tore off her clothes as well as injured her. She tried to escape by hiding in a nearby shop, but was dragged out. In addition, a civil defence volunteer was also injured,” the plea said.
It added that the members of the raiding team somehow managed to save their lives.
The court was informed in March that more than 200 children working as labourers here were rescued by the government since January and further raids were underway.
The high court, in its January 11 order, said it was “extremely disturbing” that the government was taking a lackadaisical approach and showing insensitivity in the case of the fire incident that resulted in the deaths of 45 people, including 12 children aged between 12 and 18 years.
The Delhi Police, in its status report dated January 10, had informed that of the 45 victims, nine were minors — the youngest being 12 years old — and six children had suffered injuries.
The petitioner moved the court alleging that the child labourers were employed at the factory where the fire broke out on December 8, 2019.
It has also claimed in its plea that child labourers are employed all over Delhi under the noses of the state authorities and sought directions to the authorities to carry out a time-bound, comprehensive survey of child and bonded labour in the national capital as also rescue operations in the pending complaints regarding the employment of children.
The NGO has sought directions to the authorities concerned to “rehabilitate, compensate and recover minimum wages of the child labourers at the Anaj Mandi establishments” and seal the establishments, units or factories where child labourers are found employed.