Calling it a "classic case, which would demonstrate as to how corrupt Government servants utilise any situation to make illegal gain", the Madras High Court last week came down heavily on instances of procuring e-passes amidst the Pandemic by paying bribes to authorities.
Justices N. Kirubakaran and V. M. Velumani noted that "the world is affected with the worst pandemic", "it came to a grinding halt and people were asked to remain inside for more than two months", and now "slowly, the lock down is being lifted". "While easing out restrictions, for travel of the people in case of emergencies, e-pass system has been introduced by the Governments", the bench said, observing that throughout the State, there are allegations that there are brokers available for getting e-passes for persons who apply through due process and are unable to get and that the rate ranges from Rs.500 to Rs.2000.
"Media has widely reported about the instances of getting e- passes by payment to authorities. This aspect has to be looked into seriously by the Government", directed the division bench.
Noting that for the past few months, people are unable to do their work or travel from one place to another for various purposes and are being put to untold misery, the bench expressed that though the Government is not responsible for the present position, but some corrupt officials, who are involved in issuing e-passes, are "bent upon making booty even in this worst scenario".
"It is very shocking to know about such incidents and also about cut throat corrupt officials in the system. They are like cruel blood thirsty wolves and they should be dealt with iron hand", the bench vented its ire.
The division bench was hearing a habeas corpus plea in respect of about 200 adolescent children brought during the pandemic period to work in adverse conditions in a yarn spinning company. The court demanded from the company as to how they have been able to bring children from across districts to work in their premises in a different district without getting proper e-passes.
"It is really pathetic to hear the stories of children who, for the sake of their family, have come to work even without going to school", lamented the bench, reflecting that parents should take care of their children and owing to their helplessness, not send their children to work when the Government is providing education free of cost and also, free food apart from scholarships.
"Parents should make utmost use of the incentives and facilities provided by the Government instead of sending their wards to work at such a tender age depriving them of their right to education and a bright future", the bench expressed the view.
The bench noted that the incident which is said to be happening in the respondent company is only a tip of an iceberg as hundreds of such companies are located in Tiruppur, Coimbatore and Erode Districts, and it is being said that child labour is rampant in these Districts and the circumstances and the living conditions in which the children are made to work are not appreciable.
Accordingly, the bench directed the Police Authorities, Labour Department and Child Welfare Committees of these Districts to be very vigilant and conduct raids regularly to eradicate child labour.
"Unless, the authorities are vigilant and cautious, this kind of problem cannot be prevented", said the bench, stressing "this is a social menace affecting the entire society and this issue also has to be addressed simultaneously".
Click Here To Download Order