Child Labour And Judicial Apathy

Pakistan's problems are many, but the biggest problem is the ruling elites’ lack of will to admit and address them. Ignoring the plight of the people and merely securitizing their own control will lead to nothing but the nation's downfall.

Child Labour And Judicial Apathy

"The greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse”Edmund Burke

Perhaps Edward Abbey was not wrong when he opined that power is always dangerous as it tends to attract the worst and corrupts the best. Authority has the ability to reveal the real character of any person. If one needs to find out what someone is capable of or how someone would behave in certain circumstances, all one has to do is give them some kind of authority. Other than humans, most living beings, whether plants, animals, insects etc. on this earth are quite predictable. One can easily monitor and foresee the direction in which they are headed, but humans are far more complex. What to talk of others, one cannot even perceive one’s own reactions or responses in a given situation. A normally courteous person may suddenly become foul-mouthed in a conflict or an otherwise vocal and self-confident individual may suffer from stage fright if asked to address an audience while a timid one might appear highly impressive. 

Many a times we have failed to prove in action what we normally claim to be or preach. So if we declare ourselves humane in all respects then how come we start recording videos of an accident or crime scene instead of helping the victim? Incidents of this nature, such other occasions and our behavior especially with those who are beneath our status or under our command, strip off the masks we adorn, to become likeable to others. Although the government takes great pains in hiring civil and judicial public servants, yet it is humanly impossible to ascertain their true characteristics with a few written exams and interviews. Consequently, different natured people get employed in services meant to interact with the public at large. If they are genuine, people will like them but if they are arrogant, conceited with bloated egos, obviously they will only draw hatred and disgust.

In the words of Aristotle: “At his best, man is the noblest of all animals, separated from law and justice, he is the worst.”

Judicial arm of the government is critical in providing justice in the true sense of the word. A country without an effective justice system can never hope to thrive because as Saint Augustine said: “In the absence of justice, what is sovereignty but organized robbery.” Where the government is bent upon fleecing and persecuting its own people, justice is blind, empathy is lacking, then the very essence of governance and its legality has no value. There can only be anarchy, with everyone for themselves. Collective welfare, proper administration, economic prosperity, control and management, all become meaningless.

Article 11 of the Constitution of Pakistan, 1973 read with Article 3 of ILO Convention No. 182 and section 3 of the Employment of Children Act, 1961 clearly prohibit the recruitment of children under the age of fourteen years and any violation is bound to attract penal provisions contained in the Act. No one is absolved from complying with these regulations. Keeping this in mind, how can anyone who claims to be dispensing justice be spared, especially when it is said that a judge is supposed to wear all laws of the country on the sleeves of his robes? Certainly not, but in our beloved country, we have had two gruesome examples of civil judges, who not only employed under-age children as domestic servants, but also ventured to physically abuse them in the most heinous manner.

In 2016, a judge and his wife were jailed for torturing their ten years old maid, Tayyaba. While passing the verdict no sympathy was shown for the couple by fellow judges on the grounds that the two deliberately and consciously made an innocent and helpless child to suffer tremendously. On appeal against the verdict, Islamabad High Court increased the imprisonment from one year to three years, which was later on reduced by the Supreme Court to one year.

Hardly a few years have elapsed, come 2023 and another case involving a civil judge posted in Islamabad has surfaced wherein a fourteen years old maid servant, Rizwana became a victim of brutality at the hands of his wife. Doctors found the minor with deep gashes on her head, swollen and bruised face with wounds on her arms and legs while Sargodha police confirmed visible marks of torture from being beaten with a stick. Amazingly, the judge in question denied these allegations and claimed that the child’s wounds were self-inflicted. On petition filed by the Civil Society before Islamabad High Court, this judge has been made an officer on special duty (OSD) and his wife sent on judicial remand. The torture case is yet to be heard. If this is the quality of judges, one can imagine why justice itself is nothing but a folly in this country.

As reported, an estimated 12 million children are engaged in various occupations in the country which shows that the state has lost its constitutional writ to handle these violations effectively. People, including justice givers, are blatantly breaking laws with complete audacity. The helpless and the wretched have no refuge from the powerful who are bent on wreaking havoc with their lives.

Whether in the villages or the cities, these ‘children of a lesser god’ continue to live a life of suffering, thanks to absence of justice and fair play. God knows that while penning these lines how many Tayyabas and Rizwanas are being tormented, abused and are languishing in inhuman conditions against their will in fancy homes of elites. The government has failed to control population because of which there is a phenomenal rise in the number of poor families who have no option but to send their young children to work in homes to have a chance against the ever increasing inflation that has gripped the country like an epidemic.

A society that has no regard for justice will eventually lose its identity, even existence. No doubt, problems are many but the biggest problem is the ruling elites’ lack of will to admit and address them. Ignoring the plight of the people and merely securitizing their own control will lead to nothing but downfall as we have seen in history. Justice should not be spoken of but it should be seen to be done, particularly when it comes to the people. Quoting Albert Einstein: “In matters of truth and justice, there is no difference between large and small problems, for issues concerning the treatment of people are all the same.”

The writer is a lawyer and author, and an Adjunct Faculty at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), member Advisory Board and Senior Visiting Fellow of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE)