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Bonded labour offenders ordered to surrender by The Supreme Court

On 4 September 2017, the Supreme Court of India ordered two convicted bonded labour offenders from Powerhouse Rice Mill–K. Sivakumar and Munusamy Naidu–to surrender. Complying with the order, the offenders surrendered to the trial court and were taken to jail. The arrest is significant as it marks the growing resolve of the government and judiciary to uphold justice on behalf of victims of human trafficking.

Kandasamy, owner of the Powerhouse Rice Mill, Sivakumar, his son and Munusamy, the accountant had exploited more than 100 labourers, holding them in debt bondage. Revenue Divisional Officers (RDO) from Thiruvallur had released bonded labourers twice from their rice mill—once in March 2004 and again in August 2005.

During the first incident in 2004, Kandasamy was charged under Section 16 of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 (BLSA). However, he pleaded guilty and was given a minor sentence— ‘till the rising of the court’ and a fine of Rs. 500.

Unafraid of the law, just two months after this incident, the owner employed more labourers under the same exploitative system. This time, all three offenders were charged under Sections 370, 371 and 374 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Sections 16, 17 and 20 of the BLSA.

In May 2010, the three offenders were sentenced to five years rigorous imprisonment and fines ranging from Rs. 26,000 to Rs. 52,000. However, they obtained a suspension of the sentence and appealed before the Hon’ble High Court of Madras. When the High Court dismissed the appeal in June this year, Sivakumar and Munusamy* appealed before the Supreme Court of India to challenge the conviction and ask for a suspension of the jail sentence until the appeal is disposed. The Court denied the plea and ordered them to surrender.

On 21 September, the Supreme Court of India issued an order stating the bail application would be considered only if the offenders deposit ₹75,00,000 before the Registry of the Court on or before 6 October 2017.
Click here to read about an empowered survivor who was once a victim of generational bondage from Powerhouse Rice Mill.

Click here to read about Madras High Court’s judgement against the bonded labour offenders from Powerhouse Rice Mill.
* Kandasamy passed away in March 2011 due to old age.