Peculiar best describes many of the cases that go into litigation in this country. First information reports (FIRs) are filed, then witness statements taken which are later changed, and sometimes, witnesses even go “missing”. A similar fate has been faced by the April 25th case in which an 11-year-old boy working in Sheikhupura met with an incident which left his right hand amputated after going through a fodder cutting machine at his employer’s house. Murky details further include that Irfan and his brother were indebted to employer Shafqat Bibi, which may or may not be relevant in the case. The tortuous path such cases often take show that we are less than truthful. Though we claim to knit our lives around our strong belief system, we are not known highly for our honesty and integrity.
Hence, our lethargic court systems are left to solve everyone’s problems, with members scratching their heads and desiring they had forensics teams that were better equipped. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court must hold one or the other party in this case culpable not just for their depraved actions but to also make an example out of their dishonesty.
That the boy employed was underage is a matter to be dealt with utmost care; violations of child labour laws continue with employers and parents having no knowledge about the stipulations, such as the maximum number of three daily work hours. Furthermore, in this case, for instance, under the Punjab Restriction on Employment of Children Act of 2016, employers are outright prohibited from hiring children, defined as persons below age 15. Secondly, even if one employs an adolescent, between 15 and 18, hazardous work environments are prohibited. Judgments are best left to the honorable Supreme Court. However, the aspect of child labour must be tackled in a way that dissuades parents and employers from employing children, who, given their naivete, can be easily manipulated and exploited.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 17th, 2017.