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Supreme Court Sends Strong Message in Upholding Slave Owner Conviction

DELHI, INDIA – A former slave owner will remain behind bars for another two years after the Indian Supreme Court upheld a conviction on Dec. 1 against a man who ran his business using slave labor. A decision like this—from the highest court in the land—sends a strong message to those who enslave others: Bonded labor is a crime and will no longer be tolerated.

The case dates back to 2010, when IJM helped authorities in Bangalore rescue 42 children, women and men from a rock quarry where they had been enslaved for about five years. After a lengthy trial, the man who ran the facility was convicted in 2014.

The lower court’s decision was monumental at the time and set a new precedent: Attached to each bonded labor charge were meaningful sentences amounting to seven years in prison. In most previous slavery cases, the owners were rarely required to serve any jail time at all.

Despite the fact that the owner produced no evidence during that lengthy trial, he appealed the conviction, over and over again, all the way to the Supreme Court.

In Tuesday’s decision, the Court upheld the convictions, but ruled that he will serve his sentences concurrently, meaning he faces two years in prison instead of seven. Even with a reduced sentence, the case will be meaningful in the ongoing fight to end slavery in India.

“This was a clear case of bonded labor, which is a serious crime and a form of human trafficking in India,” IJM Bangalore director Peter Williams shared, commending the highest court’s ruling to uphold justice. He added, “The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the convictions impresses upon us all that the time is come in India where this practice will no longer be tolerated, that laws will be upheld, and that those who enforce systems of bonded labor will go to prison.”

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