LAHORE - The Lahore High Court on Tuesday issued notices to Punjab chief secretary and labour secretary for not taking action against child labour at brick kilns and over illegal deductions of the workers’ salaries.

The petitioner’s counsel argued that under Punjab Prohibition of Child Labour Brick Kiln Workers Act, no child under 14 years can be employed. Yet brick kilns employ children below 14 years. Sheraz Zaka further argued that brick kiln workers were also deprived of their wages during the smog season as they remain unpaid due to the closure of brick kilns.

He contended that under Payment of Wages Act 1936, workers shall be paid even if the factory is shut down due to the smog or emergency.

After hearing the arguments, Justice Jawad Hassan inquired from assistant advocate general that what steps have been taken against the child labour. The court sought parawise comments regarding the appointment of child labour inspectors across the province of Punjab.

The court then adjourned the hearing till March 15.

Recently the Supreme Court of Pakistan while hearing a case regarding the rights of brick kiln workers had ordered a worker and his family be freed from bonded labour in Sialkot.

During the hearing, reports from Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Sindh were submitted before the apex court pertaining to the provision of rights to the kiln labourers.

The court had observed, “Workers and their children are forced into labour at these brick kilns. The purpose of this suo motu notice is to free these workers and their children from bonded labour.”

The court was informed that as many as 2,739 workers and their kids were freed in Punjab province, for which 15,000 raids were carried out, and 1,300 cases filed against the brick kiln owners for forcing the workers into bonded labour.