Section 19

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Coercive, unfair or deceptive recruitment Criminal liability Debt bondage

Section 19 punishes the act of omitting of failing to restore any possessions or property to bonded labourer with up to 1 year of imprisonment, a fine of up to 1,000 rupees, or both.

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Section 19. Punishment for omission or failure to restore possession of property to bonded labourers.
Any person who does not restore any property to the possession of a bonded labourer within 30 days of the commencement of the Act shall be punished by imprisonment of up to 1 year and/or a fine of up to INR 1000.

Law / India / Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976

The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 provides for the abolition of the bonded labour system, with a view to preventing the exploitation of vulnerable sections of society.

This Act prohibits, criminalises and extinguishes any system of debt bondage, whether by agreement, custom or contract. The Act aims to achieve the following: (i) every bonded labourer is discharged from any obligation to provide such labour; (ii) the obligation to repay any bonded debt is extinguished; (iii) the property of bonded labourers shall be free of mortgage, charge, lien or other encumbrances and shall be restored to his possession; (iv) a bonded labourer shall not be evicted from a homestead or other residential premise he was occupying as part of the consideration for the bonded labour; and (v) no creditor may accept payment against an extinguished debt.

Indian courts have given a very broad, expansive interpretation to the definition of bonded labour. For example, where a person has provided labour or services to another and received a remuneration below the minimum wage, the Courts have ruled that the labour or service falls clearly within the scope of the prohibition of forced labour under the constitution.