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Acting on an urgent plea of an NGO that police escorts remained mute spectators as its members were beaten up while rescuing child workers, the Delhi High Court Friday summoned the Delhi police commissioner and other officials before it. The police were part of a task force set up by the court to rescue child labourers.

A division bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Sanjiv Khanna directed the commissioner of police, additional commissioner of police, secretary of the department of labour, secretary of social welfare department, divisional commissioner of the Delhi government and the deputy police commissioner of East Delhi to remain present before it personally on March 21.

The court’s direction came on an urgent plea of Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) whose members were allegedly beaten up by some unidentified people Thursday afternoon when they were rescuing 22 children working for Rs.10 a day at a brocade making unit in east Delhi’s Jheel Khureji area.

“We can’t ignore the rights of children. Let these authorities explain before us as to how this situation can be redeemed and also the future course of action they are planning to avoid this untoward situation,” the bench observed.

Arguing on behalf of the NGO, senior advocate H.S.Phoolka said: “Act of police was not helping us while the rescue operation was on. It is disgusting. We are conducting the rescue operations because of the court’s directive of 2009 to stop child labour”.

“Despite the directions of this court for the rescue of at least 500 children each month, the total number of rescued children is only around 1,500 (since 2009), of which more than 1,000 have been rescued on the information and investigation of BBA. These continuous attacks are a plan to deter the activists from carrying forward the rule of law and ensuring elimination of child labour,” he added.

Countering this, standing counsel of Delhi Police Pawan Sharma said the local police were not informed about the rescue operation.

“Anti-social elements can’t take law into their hands. Such kind of behaviour by these people is not tolerable in a civilised society. From this incident, it is clear that authorities have failed to comply with their own devised guidelines in 2009 for rescuing child labour, it is very shameful,” the bench remarked.

“The unconcerned authorities and their indifferent attitude and apathy shows their repulsive attitude towards the children, who are not supposed to work at factories but are compelled to do so,” said the bench.

According to the NGO, as soon as their members arrived at the spot with some police officers, some people attacked them, injuring four members.

“This incident poses a picture that authorities who are to maintain law and order situation are not performing their duty,” the bench said, adding that the interests of the child should be protected.

Kailash Satyarthi of BBA said: “The order has once again reaffirmed our faith in the judicial system and shown the seriousness of the judiciary in eliminating child trafficking and child labour from the society. The motivation of anti child labour activists would increase multi fold after such affirmative action by the judiciary in Delhi.”

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