“They come from backward areas, take money, eat money…”: SC judge Hemant Gupta on bonded labourers

The Supreme Court on Wednesday said that there is a racket running in the country in the pretext of bonded labour and such people who are from backward areas eating into money by taking advantage of “this bonded labour thing”.

“Do you know who are bonded labourers. They are not bonded. They take money and come there and are engaged by brick kilns. They come from backward areas. They take money and eat the money and then resign. This is a racket. These labourers only take advantage of this bonded labourer thing,” he remarked.

Gupta made the controversial comments at the hearing of a plea seeking the court’s directions to investigate allegations of rape and other offences made by a woman who worked as a bonded labourer in Jammu and Kashmir. The plea claimed that the bonded labourer was repeatedly raped by the owner of the construction unit after her husband had escaped from the facility.

The plea, filed by now deceased prominent social activist Swami Agnivesh in 2012, also demanded that other bonded labourers in the erstwhile state be identified and rehabilitated.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Advocate Pooja Sharma, appearing for the woman who died in 2020, submitted that many of the bonded labourers have faced sexual harassment and not been paid any compensation even after a decade.

Justice Gupta has been in the news for making other other controversial comments.

Many took to social media to criticise and condemn the controversial and casteist remarks of Justice Gupta.

“Don’t these judges need some education on the realities of our country?” asks lawyer Prashant Bhushan.

“A statement of Justice Mr. Hemant Gupta of the Supreme Court that bonded labourers are not bonded, but are in a money-making racket shows insensitivity of a person, holding a supreme position in the Judiciary, towards the plight of millions of bonded labourers in the country,” said Dr. Bhalchandra Mungekar, former Rajya Sabha MP.