HC directs Labour Commissioner to look into regulating placement agencies

    New Delhi, Oct 16 (PTI) The Delhi High Court has directed the Secretary-cum-Labour Commissioner of the AAP government to personally look into regulating the functioning of private placement agencies and ensuring compliance of a previous direction to register them so as to check human trafficking.
    Justice A K Chawla directed the Delhi government to comply with the September 30, 2014 order of the division bench within eight weeks and then submit the action taken report signed by an officer not below the rank of additional labour commissioner.
    The affidavit on ATR is to be filed within 10 weeks, failing which the incumbent additional commissioner has to remain present before the court on the next date, January 9, 2020, the court said in its Tuesday order, made available on Wednesday.
    The court was hearing the contempt petition by NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) alleging that there was a "complete wilful disobedience and non-compliance" of the court's September 30, 2014 order for regulating the functioning of placement agencies.
    The court said, "Can the concerned Wing(s) of a welfare state be oblivious to the given cause and be sensitive enough to fail in its duty to achieve the objectives which were taken note of by the court and the directions in that regard came to be issued? Certainly, not."
    Senior advocate H S Phoolka and lawyer Prabhsahay Kaur, appearing for the NGO, contended that the contempt plea had been filed because the labour department had completely failed in implementing the executive order of September 25, 2014 for compulsory registration of private placement agencies providing domestic workers.
    The single judge, in its order said, "Taking note of the totality of facts and circumstances, in the first instance, it is expected of Vivek Pandey, Secretary-cum-Labour Commissioner, to look into the entire matter personally and ensure that the extant executive order is given effect to in its letter and spirit, as was directed by the division bench of the court on September 30, 2014...."
    After perusing a status report filed by Delhi government in April this year, the court said it showed only a "paper tiger exercise” was undertaken for "tabulation of some data" and nothing substantive emerged therefrom.
    It said no substantive action, much less any penalisation or prosecution, even worth a name, comes to be pointed out.
    According to the information contained in the executive order, there were 1,008 “identified” placement agencies. Besides, it admitted to inspecting only 344 of these establishments and that only 41 were found to be functional. Additionally the executive order claimed that 303 agencies had shifted to locations whose addresses were not known and that notices were served on only 41 agencies for producing statutory records (as of September 2014)
    The government had earlier said that all such unregistered firms would 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 the executive order passed on September 25, 2014 at the earliest.
    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 in closing the proceedings before it and was only intended to remain on paper.
    "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. PTI SKV HMP SA

(This story has not been edited by THE WEEK and is auto-generated from PTI)