HC Asks for Presence of Dy, Addl Labour Commissioners over Functioning of Placement Agencies

The Delhi High Court has sought the presence of Additional Labour Commissioner and Deputy Labour Commissioner in a case alleging non-compliance with the court’s order for regulating the functioning of private placement agencies.

Besides calling the Deputy Commissioner, the high court also asked the Additional Labour Commissioner to remain present at the next hearing after being informed by the counsel for the Delhi government that the latter has supervisory control over all the districts.

“The Additional Labour Commissioner is directed to remain present in court along with the Deputy Labour Commissioner, on the next date of hearing. List on May 26,” Justice Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora said in a recent order.

The court was hearing a contempt petition by NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) alleging there was a “complete wilful disobedience and non-compliance” with the court’s September 30, 2014 order for regulating the functioning of placement agencies.

The court also issued notice and sought the response of the authorities on an application filed in the pending contempt petition seeking direction to the Delhi government to take steps forthwith in a time bound manner to shut down all unregistered and unlicensed placement agencies.

The application by the NGO, represented through advocate Prabhsahay Kaur, also sought direction to the authorities to penalise unregistered placement agencies in accordance with the provisions of Delhi Private Placement Agencies (Regulation) Order, 2017, file FIRs and launch prosecution against those responsible under the relevant provisions of the Indian Penal Code, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, Juvenile Justice Act, Bonded Labour Act, and Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act.

Rati Singh Phogat, Deputy Labour Commissioner, who was present in the court, stated he will pursue the averments in this application, verify them and take immediate remedial steps.

Delhi government standing counsel Santosh Kumar Tripathi and lawyer Arun Panwar sought time to file the reply and set out the verification and remedial steps taken.

In the application, Kaur informed the court about a recent incident where a 15-year-old girl was placed in a home here by an illegally run placement agency where she was subjected to torture and inhuman treatment.

The minor girl was found searching for food in a trash bin when she was approached by a neighbour who asked her about her background and the information was provided to police after which she was rescued, it said.

Kaur claimed the minor girl was not fed, was beaten and burnt with hot tongs. She was found with over 30 injuries all over her face and body when rescued.

The girl was brought to Delhi from Jharkhand on the pretext of getting her a job. She was taken to a placement agency by her uncle and placed as a domestic help at a house where she worked for 2 months.

As per the plea, the girl wanted to leave the job but was confined in the house where she was allegedly sexually exploited and beaten up by the house owners.

“The failure of the respondents to take action against unregulated and unregistered placement agencies and complete willful disobedience and non-compliance of the order of this court dated September 30, 2014, is directly leading to such incident, where every few months a minor girl is rescued from abject torture and diabolical treatment.

“It is submitted that the respondents must be made directly responsible for their inaction and their contempt,” the application said.

The government had earlier said all such unregistered agencies will have to shut down after October 25, 2014.

The high court had in its 2014 order, after taking note of the government’s submission, asked it to implement at the earliest the executive order passed on September 25, 2014 for compulsory registration of private placement agencies providing domestic workers.

It had directed the government to follow its instructions in letter and spirit to check the problem of trafficking of girls.

The NGO said in its contempt plea that it seemed the executive order was passed by the government in an attempt to hoodwink the court into closing the proceedings.

“The non-compliance by the Delhi government is completely in the face of the human trafficking lobby that is increasing on an unprecedented scale under the comfortable and safe swaddle of unregulated placement agencies,” it alleged.

It claimed that non-implementation of the earlier directions of the court and the executive order of the government was fuelling a business that thrives on human trafficking by unregulated placement agencies across the national capital.

“In the absence of a regulating framework, which acts as a deterrent, placement agencies specifically employ children because they are cheaper to employ and can be easily exploited. Consequently, the phenomenon of trafficking has spread its fangs far and wide into our system, affecting the most vulnerable members of our society i.e. children and women.

“Being unregistered, these placement agencies are outside the net of the authorities concerned and hence, are not answerable to anyone unless apprehended,” the plea said.

The NGO has sought directions to the secretary-cum-labour commissioner and chief inspector, shops and establishments of the government, to compulsorily register all placement agencies within eight weeks, and take action against the unregistered ones.

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