Written by – Shruti Aggarwal, Law College Dehradun, 1st year.
Child labour is a global issue which affects millions of lives of children, especially in developing countries. Child labour refers to the employment of children at work that deprives children of their childhood and dignity and lays impact on their physical and mental growth. The work that is mentally and physically harmful to children and deprives them of their education at such age. In the words of Rabindranath Tagore “ Every child comes with a message that God is not yet discouraged of man.” So why are these kids forced to work at such tender age? Why they have to sacrifice their education? There are so many questions. So the answer to these questions are Poverty, Marginalization and Discrimination, these are the factors that leads to such an offence- CHILD LABOUR. Children work in order to fulfil the monetary needs of their family to cater to the basic necessities of life, when it seems to them that this is the best way to utilise their time and support their family. The International Labour Organisation reported that about 152 million children aged from 5-12 are engaged in child labour. The ILO said that 70% work in agriculture, 17% in services sector and 12% in the industrial sector.
Worst forms of Child labour
Although Child Labour in all forms is detrimental to the overall development of the children, while the priority is to eliminate these worst forms of child labour which seriously affects the overall wellbeing of a child. The worst forms of child labour as defined by the International Labour Organisation are :-
- All forms of slavery such as sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and forced or compulsory labour, including forced employment of children for armed conflict.
- The use, procuring or offering a child for the production of pornography or pornographic performances.
- The use, procuring or offering of a child for illicit activities, for the production and trafficking of drugs as defined in relevant International Treaties.
- Work which by its nature is harmful for the safety, health or morals of children.
These are sometimes also defined as automatic worst forms of child labour.
Rights of children in India
A number of legislations has been made in India for the protection of children. Enshrined in the Constitution of India a fundamental right states that “ No child below the age of fourteen years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment.” The Constitution of India provides for several other articles which protects the rights of children. The provisions states that “ the State shall provide free and compulsary education to all children of age of six to fourteen years.” The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation ) Act,1986 is made with an objective to address the social concern and prohibit the working of children below 14 years of age in certain employments and to regulate the conditions of work which has been prohibited in occupations relating to transport of passengers, goods by railways, bidi making soap manufacture, and construction industry. A production of certificate of age is required under the rules of the Act to stop the employment of children. The Factories Act, 1948 provides that no young person is allowed to work with dangerous machines. This Act prohibits the employment of children in any part of the factory to be employed at the work of pressing cotton. Another provision against child labour is provided in The Beedi and Cigar workers(conditions of Employment) Act,1966 which states that employment of child in this industry is strictly prohibited under this Act. The Domestic workers(Registration Social Security and Welfare) Act,2008 specifies that no child shall be employed as a domestic worker or for any such incidental work and is prohibited under this Act.
Provision for penalties under Child Labour(Prohibition and Regulation)Act,1986
The provisions relating to penalties for any employer for not abiding by the rules of Child labour(Prohibition and Regulation) Act,1986 are:-
- Imprisonment for not less than 3 months extending to 1 year or fine not less than Rs. 10000 extending to Rs. 20000 or both in case of employment of any child in contravention of the provisions of this Act.
- Foe second offence of similar nature – imprisonment for not less than 6 months which may extend to 2 years.
- Failure to maintain a register – imprisonment which may extend to 1 month or with fine which may extend to Rs. 10000 or both.
Landmark cases against Child Labour
IN the case of M.C. Mehta v. State of Tamil Nadu, the Supreme Court issued directions to the Government to eliminate child labour, which included the conducting of surveys for the identification of working children, ensuring withdrawal of children working in hazardous industries which have been mentioned under Article 24 of the Constitution of India and ensuring education of these children in appropriate institutions.
Another important case of Peoples Union for Democratic rights v. Union of India, the Supreme Court observed the clear breach of Article 24 of the Constitution to employ children below the age of 14 years in construction work. The Supreme Court giving meaning to the scope of Article 21 of the Constitution included the right to livelihood along with ‘right to live with basic human dignity.’ The Court declared solemn Constitutional responsibility of the Government to insure that the laws are properly implemented.
I would like to conclude with the words of MAHATMA GANDHI “ If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children.” It is the duty of everyone in this world to look after each and every child for the overall personality development of them. Children are the future of this society, they are the leaders of tomorrow, the torchbearers and the future developers. There should be implemented more stringent laws against this illegal act to prevent these future heroes from being exploited. Strict rules and harsh penalties should be provided to those employees who employ these little kids at their work places. These children who are deprived of their childhood and right to live with dignity should be given much respect and take action against this henious crime.
 Article 3 of the ILO Convention No. 182.
 Article 24 of The Indian Constitution.
 Article 21A of The Indian Constitution.
 Section 23 of The Factories Act,1948.
 Section 27 of the Factories ACT,1948.
 Section 24 of The Beedi and Cigar workers(Conditions of Employment) Act,1966.
 Section 14 of the Domestic workers( Registration Social Security and Welfare) Act,2008.
 (1996) 6 SCC 756.
 AIR 1982 SC 1473.