Child Labour: A Legal Viewpoint


 Introduction:

“Bestow blessings on those Little; innocent lives Bloomed on Earth Who has brought the message of joy from the heavenly garden.” -Rabindranath Tagore 

Having said this, children are undeniably the future of the country and if they are suffering then perhaps the future of the whole country is at stake. Coming to the point, child labour in all the countries of the world, including India, is probably one of the most serious problems in a state. Children from the weak economic background and so-called backward class and the suppressed race in states where racism is prevalent are made subject to all sort of hazardous and non- hazardous tasks in both developed and developing countries.


Speaking of India, the gravity of the problem roots in time immemorial. Every era of the country has witnessed child labour which is one of the major reasons why our country does not count into the developed nations of the world as the very fundamental brick of the society is disturbed due to the problems such as child labour and ultimately lack of education.


The Conundrum of Child labour:

The physical development of a child is too inadequate to expose him to any kind of work which is hazardous in nature and affects the health of the child both physically and mentally. The tender age of the children is meant for learning and growing in all aspects of life, which is something put at stake if they are burdened with a heavy workload.

 However, the law as a framework to curb this issue comes into existence. Government of India has adopted measures designed to protect children against neglect, cruelty and exploitation. These laws tend to provide equal opportunities to children to ensure their development in social, physical and mental spheres. A number of laws meant for social protection and regulation of the working have been passed by both Central and State governments. To protect the interests of the child labour in India, provisions have been incorporated in the Constitution of India.

The courts have been quite significant regarding child labour. Efforts have been made in this direction which is quite evident from the decisions taken by the Courts in some important cases like- People’s Union For Democratic Rights(1982); Neerja Chaudhary (1984); Bandhua Mukti Morcha (1984) in which judgment was given that Public Interest Litigation can be filed by anyone and not necessarily the aggrieved persons thus protecting the interests of working children against exploitation. Also, in cases like Mohini Jain and Unni Krishnan Apex court held that Right to Education is a Fundamental Right.




In light of the path-breaking judgments of the Supreme Court, it would be right to mention its historical judgment on December 10,1996 which led to ban the child labour in hazardous industries. The penalty of Rs. 20,000/- per child to be paid by the employer is found not abiding by the rule, which in return will be spent on the child’s education and rehabilitation. Moreover, it was ordered that the working hours should not be more than 4-6 hours a day for a child labourer. Also, no less than two hours per day must be kept aside for their education which will again be the responsibility of the employer.

But in spite of several legislative measures, the profit makers continue to employ children in hazardous employment and their exploitation disregarding the constitutional injunction and statutory prohibition. There are a plethora of provisions and Statutes for preventing the misuse of children and protecting their general rights but these laws are either ineffective in nature or are blatantly violated. 


Conclusion:

Child labour is still there in the nation engaged in economic activities which shows that laws are not implemented with utmost honesty. It is evident in Census 2011 that there are still more than 1 crore child labours and presently, this number must be a bigger figure keeping in view the increasing population. Until the laws are implemented in the true spirit, child labour as a social evil cannot be eradicated therefore the primary objective of a civilized society should be to cherish the proper regulations for the complete abolition of child labour in India.

- RIDDHI PATHAK
ICFAI LAW SCHOOL , DEHRADUN YEAR II

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