Author: Meenakshi Raj,
Bandhua Mukti Morcha v Union of India : Case Comment
Bench: Bhagwati, P.N.
Petitioner/Appellant: Bandhua Mukti Morcha
Respondent: Union of India
Year of Judgement: 1984
The petitioner (appellant), a social cause organization, approached the Supreme Court through a letter under Article 32 (i.e. to sought the issuance of a Writ of Mandamus) of the Constitution of India and requested the Hon’ble Supreme Court to investigate and take steps to stop the existence of inhuman conditions in certain mines in the State of Uttar Pradesh, where numerous persons including minor children, were working as forced/bonded labourers. The Supreme Court directed the Government of India to convene a meeting of the concerned Ministers of the respective State Government and their Principal Secretaries and appointed two inquiry commissions to find out the true facts and circumstances as alleged by the plaintiff.
Objections raised by the respondents:
The following objections were raised by the respondents:-
- Article 32 of the Constitution of India is not attracted in the instant case as no fundamental right of the petitioner or the workmen referred to in the petition are infringed.
- A letter addressed by a party to this court cannot be treated as a Writ petition and in the absence of any verification of facts stated in the petition, this court cannot be moved to exercise its writ jurisdiction.
- In a proceeding under Article 32, the Supreme Court is not empowered to appoint any commission to enquire into the allegations made and on the basis of whose report the Supreme Court can exercise its powers and jurisdiction.
Is social cause organization has locus standi to approach for the violation of a fundamental right through a letter under Article 32 of the Constitution of India?
Judgment: The Court held that-
- Pragmatic, constructive and realistic steps and actions are required to be taken to enable the children belonging to the poor and the weaker sections of the society, including Dalits, tribal and minorities to be able to enjoy their childhood and develop their full blossomed personality- educationally, intellectually and culturally, enjoying the spirit of inquiry, reform, and leisure.
- Whenever any person is wrongfully or illegally denied and deprived of his liberty, it is open for that person to move to this court under Article 32 of the Constitution of India, for his release.
- The court relied on the judgment of S.P. Gupta v Union of India and held that though no fundamental right of the petitioner may have been infringed, yet the petitioner who complains of such violation taking place, may succeed by way of Public Interest Litigation.
- Although under Article 32, the right to move the Hon’ble Supreme Court by an appropriate proceeding is guaranteed, the Article 32 or any other provision of the Constitution of India does not lay down any specific procedure to be followed by this Court. Procedural laws also form a part of the law and have to be observed but are however, subservient to the substantive law. The fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution are too sacred and important to be ignored, merely on the basis of technical grounds of the procedural laws. Therefore, if the court is satisfied by the material placed before it, be it in any form, including a letter or any other type of communication, it may take notice of the same as a writ petition.
- The Court further observed that Article 32(2) of the Constitution of India empowers the Court to make any directions, writs or orders for the prevention of the fundamental rights of every individual. The Hon’ble Court found the article presented before it is sufficiently wide enough to appoint the fact-finding commission as well as to appoint lawyers for the poor and oppressed who are not in the financial situation to stand for their rights and fight for them.
- Lastly, the Court pointed out that there are many rights conferred on the people who belong to the backward sections of the society, by statute, which are required to be enforced as urgently and vigorously as the fundamental rights.
- For the above-mentioned reasons, the Hon’ble Supreme Court allowed the appeal.
The word ‘locus standi’ means ‘ what is your standing the in case’.The present case, a Public Interest Litigation case, was filed by the petitioner, who, directed wasn’t related to the case but had a standing in the case, as he stood to help the people who could not help themselves.
The concept of helping and standing for the interest of others first came in the United States where Social Interest Litigation was formed to help the poor and the helpless. The formation of the Social Interest Litigation gave a view to India to incorporate something of the same concept and so, the birth of Public Interest Litigation took place.
In view of the present case, the Hon’ble Supreme court presented before us the importance of protecting children’s right to education, health, and development in ensuring India’s progress as a democracy. It can be kept in view that child employment cannot be abolished immediately due to the economic necessity, but the steps to protect and promote the rights of poverty-stricken children can be taken for the same.
As we further speak of children’s rights, the co-recipient of the Noble Peace Prize cannot be overlooked. Kailash Satyarti is an Indian social reformer who campaigns against child labor in India and elsewhere and advocated the universal right to education. Till today, many organizations have been started and are successfully operating because of his initiative. The Beti Bachao Andolan, Global March Against Child Labour, Global Campaign for Education, are all organizations helping children and the deprived sections to liberate themselves.
Currently, the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India have initiated the PENCIL scheme, which is an electronic platform aiming at Centre, States, Districts, Governments, Civil societies and the general public in achieving the target of child labor free society.