May 27, 2024
Home » Exploring Child Rights and Labour Laws in India
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This article has been written by Sumit kumar, a 4th year student at Law college Dehradun, faculty of Uttaranchal university.

Abstract

Child labour laws and the rights of a child are fundamental aspects on protecting child against abuse through safeguarding them at all times. They stipulate the age required for a person to be employed and the maximum hours that they should work for, this common exploitation is usually committed against the minors. The laws are there to ensure that child growth, learning curricular activities and safe lives are not put at stake. On top of such regulations, it is worth noting that such rights include other general measures such as provision of education, health amenities as well as safety nets for their future continuity. Child labour laws in India became more stringent through changes in the regulations. Under the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act enacted in 1986 with an amendment done in 2016, it is illegal to employ children less than 14 years at work places while those aged between 14-18 years cannot engage in hazardous work situations. The Right to Education Act also legislates on free and mandatory primary education between ages 6 to 14 hence keeping children away from work. To address on-going challenges, coordinated efforts among government agencies, NGOs, and communities are essential. Strengthening enforcement, raising public awareness, and providing support for affected families are critical steps towards a society where child rights are upheld and child labour is eradicated. The synergy between child labour laws and child rights underlines a commitment to creating an environment where children can thrive, learn, and grow without fear of exploitation or harm.

Introduction

Child labour laws and child rights are important elements of social responsibility which ensure children are safeguarded against exploitation and also enable them to develop themselves in a secure and caring environment. They are designed to keep children away from dangerous jobs, give them an education as well as promoting their general growth. On another hand, child rights include a larger variety of protections against all forms of harm thus supporting child welfare, schooling, healthy lifestyle, safe environment and involvement in decision making processes concerning themselves for life improvement.

Child labour laws usually define when young people may start working officially, govern against dangerous job assignments, or place ceilings to the number of hours a week they can work so as not to interfere with schooling or growth processes, all these rules aim at nurturing children while safeguarding them against any form of harm or unfair treatment that might hinder their development or future opportunities.

Rights of child, contained in global documents such as United States Convention on the Rights of Child (UNCRC), are beyond mere employment; the broad scope encompass many areas e.g. their rights to study, get well when sick, be kept safe from violence or be involved in issues surrounding them. This is all about realizing that child has personal importance and therefore any community must look into their well-being and views.

Child labour laws and child rights are indispensable in securing the welfare of children. Nonetheless, we continue to witness violations against individual child or minors, alongside child labour occurrences in different parts of the globe due to unavoidable poverty, ineffective legal enforcement mechanisms, as well as cultural immersion which comes with its practices that are unique from one community to another. If these situations are to change then government leaderships plus some agencies like the United Nations must take necessary actions while addressing them along with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and even at community level whereby they operate as this will help create favourable environments for young ones without any form of exploitation occurring thereby enabling them to realize their optimal development potential.

Child Labour Laws in India

Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986

The provision was aimed at preventing children from being employed in some areas, while setting the terms for the same in other sectors. It also meant that children who were engaged in these sections would be shielded from dangerous labour and given basic employee’s rights.

Amendment in 2016

The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016, significantly strengthened the protection of children:

  • Complete Prohibition on child labour: The amendment prohibits the employment of children under 14 years old in any occupation. But children working in family enterprises or as artists (under strict conditions) are exempted.
  • Hazardous occupation for Adolescents: It prohibits the employment of adolescents (14 to 18 years) in hazardous occupations and processes.[1]
  • Stringent Penalties: Penalties such as fines and imprisonment await violators of the Act. The level of severity of penalty will depend on how frequent the violation is and the gravity of each specific case treated separately.[2]

Right to Education Act, 2009

Even though the Right to Education Act doesn’t mention anything to do with child labour, it covers child labour issues since it describes basic, free and compulsory education for all persons who are within the age limit of between six and fourteen years. What the law is really doing is that it ensures that at all times child’s are at school but not working.

National Policy on Child Labour

This law is aimed at addressing child labour by strictly enforcing laws against it while at the same time rehabilitating working children and getting to the root of the problems such as poverty and lack of education.

Enforcement and Challenges

While laws and policies have been set forth, enforcement can be difficult because of issues such as poverty, ignorance and culture. Government bodies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other partners work together to identify and rehabilitate child labourers, but the fight cannot be won unless it is sustained. In which these laws demonstrate India’s dedication towards safeguarding the rights of children as well as ensuring they have a promising tomorrow. Therefore, necessary measures should be taken in order to improve their implementation with the aim of raising public consciousness regarding its negative impacts alongside providing support for those affected.

Legal Precedents Concerning Child Labour

In the case of M.C. Mehta v. State of Tamil Nadu (1996)[3] the Supreme Court held that immediate release of all children working in hazardous industries like matchstick factories and establishment of programs for their rehabilitation which would include educational Facilities long with vocational training. A scheme was established by the court through which the family members who are related to minor employees would have their properties confiscated unless they compensated. The state governments have been mandated by The Court to enforce child labour regulations strictly if they want to avoid putting child into dangerous situations.

In the case of Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India (1984)[4] the case was brought by an NGO pushing for the release of bonded labourers, tackling the issue of bonded child labour at brick kilns. Instructions given by Supreme Court were that government should make sure that no forced or bonded labour is meted on their children, and establish a commission on labour conditions. This case created a precedent in PILs against child labour as well as other social vices.

In the case of Salal Hydro Project v. State of Jammu & Kashmir (1983)[5] Supreme Court has insisted on adherence to the constitutional and statutory aspects that forbid child labour in dangerous occupations. This is because it found out that under-age employment is done more often by those involved with construction areas – meaning this violates Article 24 of Indian Constitution (which prohibits any form of child labour if it’s likely to harm physical or mental health). Furthermore, it was observed that using children below this age line at any industry that produces hazardous substances, like Salal Hydro Project came out illegal too! Existing legislations should be implemented so that all existing laws concerning child protection from being taken advantage of should be followed without exceptions or compromise on their safety or welfare by any employer.

Child Rights in India

Child rights in India are the rights and protections given to children that ensure their safety, welfare, and growth. These rights are entrenched in different legal frameworks like the Indian Constitution, individual laws, and international conventions that India is a part of.

Interrelation between Child Rights and Constitution

Fundamental Rights

The Indian Constitution’s Fundamental Rights provide a solid base for child rights. Here are the key Articles that pertain to children’s rights:

Article 15 of the Indian Constitution:

Connection to Child Labour and Child Rights:

Although Article 15 does not directly mention child labour, it has several implications for child rights and, consequently, for child labour prevention:

Non-Discrimination: Article 15 prevents children from being discriminated against of their religion, caste, sex, or place of birth. This is very important regarding the subject of child labour, as marginalized groups are frequently at a greater danger of exploitation.

Special Provisions for Children: The special provisions for children clause enables the state to design and implement policies and programs that protect children’s rights such as the right to education (including primary education at least), and rights to safe and healthy environments. Through these mechanisms, it indirectly fights against child labour by offering them more options as well as creating support mechanisms.

Social Justice: By addressing discrimination, Article 15 fosters a society where all children, regardless of their background, have equal opportunities. This contributes to reducing child labour, as discriminatory practices can lead to increased vulnerability and exploitation.

Relationship between Article 15 and POCSO

Supreme Court Judgment in Independent Thought v. Union of India[1] this case challenged the exception in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that allowed sexual intercourse with a girl aged between 15 and 18 years if she was married. The petitioners argued that this exception violated the fundamental rights of equality and protection from discrimination under Article 15, as well as the rights of children under POCSO.

The Supreme Court, in its judgment, declared that sexual intercourse with a minor wife, even within the marital relationship, amounts to rape under the IPC and is a violation of her rights under POCSO. The court also emphasized that the exception in the law was arbitrary and discriminatory, as it treated married girls between 15 and 18 years differently from unmarried girls and violated their dignity and autonomy.

This case is significant as it underscores the importance of protecting the rights of children, particularly girls, from sexual exploitation and discrimination. It highlights the intersection between legal provisions like Article 15 and specific legislation like POCSO in ensuring justice and equality for vulnerable groups.

Labour laws on child’s right and child labour

The Code on Social Security, 2020, is part of broader initiative to consolidate, simplify, and reform labour laws. This code addresses various aspects of social security for workers, including provisions relevant to child labour and child rights. Here’s how these concepts are related to the Code on Social Security, 2020:

Creche Facilities: This section mandates employers with a certain number of women employees to provide creche facilities. This supports child rights by ensuring that working mothers have a safe place for their children, reducing the need for children to accompany parents to work or stay home unsupervised, potentially decreasing the risk of child labour[2].

Maternity Benefits: This section stipulates maternity benefits for women employees, ensuring they have access to paid leave and other facilities during and after pregnancy. This supports child rights by promoting maternal health and reducing the economic pressure that might drive families toward child labour due to a lack of income during maternity leave.[3]

The Occupational safety, Health and Working Condition, Code, 2020, while primarily designed for adult workers, has several provisions that can indirectly support child rights and reduce child labour:

Protection from Hazardous Work: By identifying and regulating hazardous processes and industries, the code ensures that children are not exposed to dangerous working conditions, reinforcing existing laws that prohibit child labour in hazardous environments.

Promotion of Safe Working Conditions: workplace safety and health helps ensure a safer work environment, reducing the likelihood of child labour due to unsafe conditions. This also promotes child rights by safeguarding children’s well-being.


[1] Independent Thought v. Union of India (AIR 2017 SC 4904)

[2] Section 67 of the code on Social security,2020

[3] Section 60 of the code on social security, 2020

Right to Life and Personal Liberty (Article 21):

Article 21A, an extension of Article 21, gives the right to free and compulsory education for children aged 6-14 years. Child protection from abuse, exploitation, and child labour is contained in article 21. This protection is made possible through laws such as the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, as well as the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, which ensure that children do not participate in hazardous labour or suffer neglects. The right to health care and nutrition within Article 21 also includes a healthy life. Programmes like the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and those which target delivering appropriate nutrition in schools serve the aim of promoting child’s topic parental scrutiny.

Right against Exploitation (Articles 23 and 24)

Article 23 criminalizes human trafficking, forced labour and other forms of exploitation and is very important in protecting children from child labour, trafficking and all other forms of exploitation which deny them their right to education, safety and childhood distinctly. In so doing, therefore, it prevents children from being subjected to conditions that would endanger their welfare.

The child labour issue is specifically dealt with in article 24 which also bans children under 14 from being employed in any factory, mine or hazardous area. This serves as an important measure because it means that child will not be exposed to risky conditions while working under compulsion when they are still young thereby giving them a chance for schooling and proper growth.

Fundamental Duties

Article 51A (k) of the Indian Constitution describes a fundamental duty related to the education of children. It states that it is the duty of every citizen of India “who is a parent or guardian to provide opportunities for education to his child or, as the case may be, ward between the age of six and fourteen years.

In the case of Independent Thought v. Union of India (2017)[6] The Supreme Court, in its judgment, struck down Exception 2 to Section 375 of the IPC, stating that it was inconsistent with the Constitution and international obligations regarding child rights. The court declared that sexual intercourse with a minor wife, even within a valid marriage, was rape if the wife was under 18 years of age. The judgment made greatly affected children’s standing in India by reinforcing child protection against sexual exploitation, abuse or any such harassment even if the child was married. This was in agreement with other child protection legislation, for instance, POCSO Act, Prohibition of Child Marriage Act which underlined that getting married should never be understood as any excuse for sexually abusing a child.

In the case of Unni krishnan J.P. v. State of Andhra Pradesh (1993)[7], the Supreme Court marked a turning point in India’s legal framework for education and child rights. It underscored the importance of education in the context of fundamental rights and paved the way for broader legal and policy reforms to ensure that all children have access to education, thereby contributing to their personal development and the nation’s progress.

Conclusion

Child rights and child labour are distinct, yet interrelated with constitution, concerns that care for the protection, well-being, and development of child right from conception till adolescence. The area of child rights involves a number of principles and rights to be enjoyed by all children irrespective of their social, economic, political or religious background. Child labour represents a serious problem that violates these rights denying child an opportunity to live an all-inclusive life free from fear, poverty and series of frustration. Child deserves not to be exploited, maltreated or ignored. They are also entitled to acquire knowledge, stay healthy, and live in a friendly environment that would aid in their overall well-being. These are the basic provisions contained in legal documents of all countries including the UN Charter on Children’s Rights and Act on Protection of Children against Sexual Offence (POCSO).


[1] Section 3A of Child Labour amendment act,2016

[2] Section 18 of Child labour amendment act, 2016

[3] M.C. Mehta v. State of Tamil Nadu (1996) 6 SCC 756

[4] Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India & Ors. (1997) 10 SCC 549

[5] Salal Hydro Project v. State of Jammu & Kashmir (1983)2 SCC 181

[6] Independent Thought v. Union of India (AIR 2017 SC 4904)

[7] Unni krishnan J.P. v. State of Andhra Pradesh 1993 AIR 217


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