What Does India’s Law Say on Child Labour? How to File Complaints?

As per the data of 2011 Census, India had 10.13 million child labourers, between the ages of 5-14.

Published12 Jun 2020, 02:30 AM IST
Explainers
10 min read
Snapshot

Though one’s childhood is theoretically a time of learning, bonding and exploring, a large number of children in India are deprived of such a childhood, due to their poor socio-economic condition. Child labour has many negative effects such has malnutrition, depression, etc. It also affects the future well-being of the children by denying them educational opportunities.

As per the data of 2011 Census, India had 10.13 million child labourers, between the age of 5-14. However, this problem is not uniform across India, with some states reporting a higher prevalence of child labour than others, examples being Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh - which together constitute nearly 55% of the total population of working children in India.

Child labour is any work performed by children that is dangerous or harmful to them and affects their physical and mental development. This form of work deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and interferes with a child’s ability to attend and participate in school fully by obligating them to leave school prematurely.

The law on child labour in India provides for punishments for illegal labour of children but does not completely disallow the employment of children. Certain forms of work done by children like running a family business or performing as a child artist, etc. are allowed under certain conditions.

Even though the law is strict in its provisions against child labour, such labour is very much prevalent - the lack of awarness of the law and the lack of implementation by the authorities being the key reasons. On World Day Against Child Labour. which falls on 12 June, let’s take a look at the law on child labour in India and how the law regulates the conditions of children working in certain occupations.

What Does India’s Law Say on Child Labour? How to File Complaints?

  1. 1. What is the law on child labour?

    In India the law addressing child labour is known as the Child Labour Amendment (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 2016. This law regulates the employment of children and does not allow children below the age of 14 to work except as a child artist and in a family business.

    This law also paves the way for India’s obligation to fulfill the International Labour Organizations (ILO) Convention No. 182 which prohibits hazardous work which is likely to jeopardize children’s physical, mental or moral health. It aims at immediate elimination of the worst forms of child labour for kids below 18 years.

    The Constitution of India, 1950 under Article 21(A) mandates free and compulsory education for all children in the age group of 6-14 yrs. Article 24 also specifically prohibits the employment of children below the age of fourteen years in dangerous factories which may cause them physical as well as long term mental harm.

    Every person, including the parent or guardian of children, has the fundamental duty under Article 51 of the Constitution – a part of the Directive Principles of State Policy – to provide opportunities for education to his or her child between the age of 6-14 yrs.

    The State, under Article 45 of the Constitution, also has a duty to provide free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years.

    Under the child labour law in India, adolescents between the age of 14 and 18 are prohibited from working in any hazardous or dangerous occupations and processes. They can only work in certain government declared non-hazardous occupations or in a family business or as an artist.

    The employer also has a wide range of duties and measures which they need to keep in mind,like health, safety and well-being, while employing children.

    Expand
  2. 2. What forms of child labour are allowed and not allowed in India?

    The child labour law in India, classifies children below the age of 18 into 2 categories – child (below 14 years) and adolescents (between 14-18 years). The work which is allowed under the law depends on which age category the child falls in.

    It is illegal for any person to employ or allow children under the age of 14 in any form of occupation except as a child artist, or in a family business.

    For instance, a child artist is allowed to work in movies, TV shows, sports, radio, cinema, etc. and be paid for it. However, the law specifically bans children from performing in circuses or on the street for money.

    In cases of artistic performances which do not fall under the categories given above, children, with the help of the parents, can take permission of the respective State Government and participate in such shows.

    A child below the age of 14 as well as adolescents are allowed to work in a family business to support the family, but only after school hours and during vacations. A family business is any work or business which is done or run by the members of the family. The business could belong to or be run by an immediate family (mother, father, brother or sister) or extended family (father’s sister and brother, or mother’s sister and brother).

    Parents also have a duty under the child labour to send their children to school and ensure the development of the child’s education.

    For adolescents between the ages of 14-18, the law strictly prohibits them from working in a particular list of non-industrial and industrial processes, such as mines or places which use inflammable substances or explosives, firework shops, slaughter houses, food processing industry, etc. A list of such hazardous work are given here.

    If any child is found employed in such industries or businesses, then the employer will be punished for allowing this to happen in the first place.
    Expand
  3. 3. What is the punishment for child labour?

    Under the child labour law in India known as the Child Labour Amendment (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 2016 any person who employs a child or an adolescent in any illegal labour work will be punished.

    Punishment for employing a child (Below 14 years of age)

    The punishment for employing a child is imprisonment between six months and two years and/or a fine between Rs. 20,000 and Rs. 50,000. For instance, employing a 12 year old child in a matchstick factory is illegal and punishable under the law. However, the Court will decide if only jail time is sufficient or if a fine needs to be paid as well.

    Punishment for employing an adolescent (14-18 years of age)

    The punishment for employing an adolescent in any illegal occupation, is imprisonment for a period between six months and two years and/or fine between Rs. 20,000 and Rs. 50,000 and imprisonment between one to three years if a person continues with child labour after having been punished once. For example, employing a 16-year-old boy in a mine is punishable both under the child labour law as well as the The Mines Act, 1952. Under the Mines Act, if a person below eighteen years of age is employed in a mine, the owner, agent or manager of such mine shall be punished with a fine which may extend to five hundred rupees.

    Punishment for parents

    Parents who force their children to work in family businesses or as child artists (without letting them go to school) or any prohibited occupations under the law can be punished. The law punishes them the first time with a warning but if the child is made to work again illegally then they can be punished with a fine of up to Rs 10,000.

    Expand
  4. 4. What is the responsibility of an employer hiring a child for work?

    Every employer who employs an adolescent working in his establishment has to perform certain duties under the law.

    Firstly, the employer has to maintain a register which would have details of the adolescent such as name and date of birth, hours and periods of work of the adolescent, intervals of rest and nature of work performed by any such adolescent.

    Secondly, the employer has to ensure that the child or adolescent is provided with the highest standards of safety and care.

    They have to do this by making sure that proper Working Hours and Days and Health and Safety measures are provided. This includes providing a safe environment which is clean and hygienic. Employers have to ensure that facilities such as drinking water, latrines, urinals, protective gear for eyes and body, etc. are provided.

    Proper instructions should be given to adolescents for handling dangerous machines and training and supervision should be given to adolescents for handling dangerous machinery.

    Thirdly, the employer has to send a notice to the Inspector, who is a Government appointed official whose duty is to make sure there is no illegal employment and that the permitted employment of adolescents is done as per the law. Within 30 days of hiring the adolescent, the employer has to send a notice with the name and location of the establishment, name of the employer, nature of the employment and the work done by the establishment.

    Employers who do not fulfill these duties given under the law will be punished. The punishment is imprisonment for a maximum period of a month or a fine of maximum Rs. 10,000 or both.
    Expand
  5. 5. How can you file a complaint against child labour?

    There are many forums you can approach to complain against child labour.

    Call 1098 - ChildLine India Foundation Helpline

    1098 is a toll-free number and it operates across India. It is operated by Childline India Foundation which works for child rights and child protection. Anyone, including children themselves, can call and give information on child labour on this number. Anyone calling this helpline must try to give as much information as possible regarding the child that has been employed illegally, including details like name, age, description and address where the child is working.

    The information provided by you will be forwarded to the ground staff at the district where the child is. The ground staff comprises a social welfare organization and members of the ChildLine India Foundation. The staff might call the informant back to find out more details or ask more doubts about the child. They will then make an inquiry and with the combined efforts of the Labour Department, Police, Department of Anti-Human Trafficking and NGOs, they will take action to stop such illegal labour.

    Police Station

    One’s quickest on-ground solution is the police with whom one can file a complaint by going to the nearby police station or calling 100. Anyone reporting any child labour to the police must try to give as much information as possible about the incident.

    Call the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights

    Every state has a State Commission for Protection of Child Rights. For instance, Kerala, Delhi, etc. Anyone can call the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights of the state the child is in, who will inquire into violation of child rights and recommend initiation of proceedings in such cases.

    Expand
  6. 6. Can parents force their children to work if the family requires money?

    Parents can make children below the age of 14, work only for a family business or as a child artist under the child labour law in India. In cases of family businesses, parents cannot force the child to quit school and work, as the law specifically states the importance of a child’s education and the parents duty to educate the child.

    For instance, if a 12-year-old girl is being constantly harassed by her mother and father and they have forced her to quit school, then the parents have committed an offence under two laws, the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000.

    Causing hurt to any person is an offence under the Indian Penal Code, and is punishable with imprisonment which may extend to one year, or with fine which may extend to Rs. 1,000/-, or with both.

    Assault of a child by a person who is in charge of or control of that child is an offence under the Juvenile Justice [Care and Protection of Children] Act. The offender is liable to be punished with imprisonment which may extend to six months, or with fine,or with both.

    Such forms of ill-treatment, where the parents have forced the child to quit school or refuses to let the child attend school are incidents which can be notified to the Child Welfare Committee established under the Juvenile Justice Act which will ensure strict action is taken and the child is sent back to school.

    The Constitution (Eighty-sixth Amendment) Act, 2002 inserted Article 21(A) in the Constitution of India to provide free and compulsory education of all children in the age group of six to fourteen years as a Fundamental Right. To further such an objective, the law known as Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 was enacted which aimed at providing every child with full time elementary education of satisfactory and equitable quality in a formal school.

    Children have the right to ‘Free education’ which means that no child, other than a child who has been admitted by his or her parents to a school which is not supported by the State Government, has to pay any kind of fee or charges or expenses for pursuing and completing elementary education.

    It is also the obligation of the Government and local authorities to provide and ensure admission, attendance and completion of elementary education by all children in the 6-14 age group.

    Expand

What is the law on child labour?

In India the law addressing child labour is known as the Child Labour Amendment (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 2016. This law regulates the employment of children and does not allow children below the age of 14 to work except as a child artist and in a family business.

This law also paves the way for India’s obligation to fulfill the International Labour Organizations (ILO) Convention No. 182 which prohibits hazardous work which is likely to jeopardize children’s physical, mental or moral health. It aims at immediate elimination of the worst forms of child labour for kids below 18 years.

The Constitution of India, 1950 under Article 21(A) mandates free and compulsory education for all children in the age group of 6-14 yrs. Article 24 also specifically prohibits the employment of children below the age of fourteen years in dangerous factories which may cause them physical as well as long term mental harm.

Every person, including the parent or guardian of children, has the fundamental duty under Article 51 of the Constitution – a part of the Directive Principles of State Policy – to provide opportunities for education to his or her child between the age of 6-14 yrs.

The State, under Article 45 of the Constitution, also has a duty to provide free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years.

Under the child labour law in India, adolescents between the age of 14 and 18 are prohibited from working in any hazardous or dangerous occupations and processes. They can only work in certain government declared non-hazardous occupations or in a family business or as an artist.

The employer also has a wide range of duties and measures which they need to keep in mind,like health, safety and well-being, while employing children.

What forms of child labour are allowed and not allowed in India?

The child labour law in India, classifies children below the age of 18 into 2 categories – child (below 14 years) and adolescents (between 14-18 years). The work which is allowed under the law depends on which age category the child falls in.

It is illegal for any person to employ or allow children under the age of 14 in any form of occupation except as a child artist, or in a family business.

For instance, a child artist is allowed to work in movies, TV shows, sports, radio, cinema, etc. and be paid for it. However, the law specifically bans children from performing in circuses or on the street for money.

In cases of artistic performances which do not fall under the categories given above, children, with the help of the parents, can take permission of the respective State Government and participate in such shows.

A child below the age of 14 as well as adolescents are allowed to work in a family business to support the family, but only after school hours and during vacations. A family business is any work or business which is done or run by the members of the family. The business could belong to or be run by an immediate family (mother, father, brother or sister) or extended family (father’s sister and brother, or mother’s sister and brother).

Parents also have a duty under the child labour to send their children to school and ensure the development of the child’s education.

For adolescents between the ages of 14-18, the law strictly prohibits them from working in a particular list of non-industrial and industrial processes, such as mines or places which use inflammable substances or explosives, firework shops, slaughter houses, food processing industry, etc. A list of such hazardous work are given here.

If any child is found employed in such industries or businesses, then the employer will be punished for allowing this to happen in the first place.

What is the punishment for child labour?

Under the child labour law in India known as the Child Labour Amendment (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 2016 any person who employs a child or an adolescent in any illegal labour work will be punished.

Punishment for employing a child (Below 14 years of age)

The punishment for employing a child is imprisonment between six months and two years and/or a fine between Rs. 20,000 and Rs. 50,000. For instance, employing a 12 year old child in a matchstick factory is illegal and punishable under the law. However, the Court will decide if only jail time is sufficient or if a fine needs to be paid as well.

Punishment for employing an adolescent (14-18 years of age)

The punishment for employing an adolescent in any illegal occupation, is imprisonment for a period between six months and two years and/or fine between Rs. 20,000 and Rs. 50,000 and imprisonment between one to three years if a person continues with child labour after having been punished once. For example, employing a 16-year-old boy in a mine is punishable both under the child labour law as well as the The Mines Act, 1952. Under the Mines Act, if a person below eighteen years of age is employed in a mine, the owner, agent or manager of such mine shall be punished with a fine which may extend to five hundred rupees.

Punishment for parents

Parents who force their children to work in family businesses or as child artists (without letting them go to school) or any prohibited occupations under the law can be punished. The law punishes them the first time with a warning but if the child is made to work again illegally then they can be punished with a fine of up to Rs 10,000.

What is the responsibility of an employer hiring a child for work?

Every employer who employs an adolescent working in his establishment has to perform certain duties under the law.

Firstly, the employer has to maintain a register which would have details of the adolescent such as name and date of birth, hours and periods of work of the adolescent, intervals of rest and nature of work performed by any such adolescent.

Secondly, the employer has to ensure that the child or adolescent is provided with the highest standards of safety and care.

They have to do this by making sure that proper Working Hours and Days and Health and Safety measures are provided. This includes providing a safe environment which is clean and hygienic. Employers have to ensure that facilities such as drinking water, latrines, urinals, protective gear for eyes and body, etc. are provided.

Proper instructions should be given to adolescents for handling dangerous machines and training and supervision should be given to adolescents for handling dangerous machinery.

Thirdly, the employer has to send a notice to the Inspector, who is a Government appointed official whose duty is to make sure there is no illegal employment and that the permitted employment of adolescents is done as per the law. Within 30 days of hiring the adolescent, the employer has to send a notice with the name and location of the establishment, name of the employer, nature of the employment and the work done by the establishment.

Employers who do not fulfill these duties given under the law will be punished. The punishment is imprisonment for a maximum period of a month or a fine of maximum Rs. 10,000 or both.

How can you file a complaint against child labour?

There are many forums you can approach to complain against child labour.

Call 1098 - ChildLine India Foundation Helpline

1098 is a toll-free number and it operates across India. It is operated by Childline India Foundation which works for child rights and child protection. Anyone, including children themselves, can call and give information on child labour on this number. Anyone calling this helpline must try to give as much information as possible regarding the child that has been employed illegally, including details like name, age, description and address where the child is working.

The information provided by you will be forwarded to the ground staff at the district where the child is. The ground staff comprises a social welfare organization and members of the ChildLine India Foundation. The staff might call the informant back to find out more details or ask more doubts about the child. They will then make an inquiry and with the combined efforts of the Labour Department, Police, Department of Anti-Human Trafficking and NGOs, they will take action to stop such illegal labour.

Police Station

One’s quickest on-ground solution is the police with whom one can file a complaint by going to the nearby police station or calling 100. Anyone reporting any child labour to the police must try to give as much information as possible about the incident.

Call the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights

Every state has a State Commission for Protection of Child Rights. For instance, Kerala, Delhi, etc. Anyone can call the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights of the state the child is in, who will inquire into violation of child rights and recommend initiation of proceedings in such cases.

Labour Commissioner

One can file a complaint with the Department of Labour Relations on their website and fill in the details about any child labour incident.

PENCIL Portal

Anyone can file an online complaint under the PENCIL Portal Child Labour Section, with the Ministry of Labour and Employment. The most important things that have to be filled out are the description of the child employed, state and district where the child is being employed and the informant’s details i.e. name, mobile number and email ID.

Can parents force their children to work if the family requires money?

Parents can make children below the age of 14, work only for a family business or as a child artist under the child labour law in India. In cases of family businesses, parents cannot force the child to quit school and work, as the law specifically states the importance of a child’s education and the parents duty to educate the child.

For instance, if a 12-year-old girl is being constantly harassed by her mother and father and they have forced her to quit school, then the parents have committed an offence under two laws, the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000.

Causing hurt to any person is an offence under the Indian Penal Code, and is punishable with imprisonment which may extend to one year, or with fine which may extend to Rs. 1,000/-, or with both.

Assault of a child by a person who is in charge of or control of that child is an offence under the Juvenile Justice [Care and Protection of Children] Act. The offender is liable to be punished with imprisonment which may extend to six months, or with fine,or with both.

Such forms of ill-treatment, where the parents have forced the child to quit school or refuses to let the child attend school are incidents which can be notified to the Child Welfare Committee established under the Juvenile Justice Act which will ensure strict action is taken and the child is sent back to school.

The Constitution (Eighty-sixth Amendment) Act, 2002 inserted Article 21(A) in the Constitution of India to provide free and compulsory education of all children in the age group of six to fourteen years as a Fundamental Right. To further such an objective, the law known as Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 was enacted which aimed at providing every child with full time elementary education of satisfactory and equitable quality in a formal school.

Children have the right to ‘Free education’ which means that no child, other than a child who has been admitted by his or her parents to a school which is not supported by the State Government, has to pay any kind of fee or charges or expenses for pursuing and completing elementary education.

It is also the obligation of the Government and local authorities to provide and ensure admission, attendance and completion of elementary education by all children in the 6-14 age group.

What are the guidelines under the law for children who work in family businesses?

A family business is any work or business which is done or run by the members of the family. The business could belong to or be run by an immediate family (mother, father, brother or sister) or extended family (father’s sister and brother, or mother’s sister and brother).Some guidelines to be followed under the child labour law in India for employing a child in a family business are:

  • The child can only work in a family enterprise to help his or her own family and only work for the family.
  • The child cannot be given work during school hours and between 7 pm and 8 am.
  • The child cannot be engaged in tasks which may severely affect his education or homework or extra-curricular activity assigned to him or her.
  • The child cannot be engaged in continuous tasks without rest which would make him or her tired. It is important to provide care and support for the child by providing breaks to refresh his health and mind. That is why the law states that the child should not work continuously for more than 3 hours.

If a parent forces a child or adolescent to work in any prohibited occupation under the law, then they will be punished. The law does give them a chance to correct their wrong – when they are caught doing this the first time, they can settle it by paying money. However, if they make their child work again in violation of the law, they can be punished with a fine of up to Rs. 10,000.

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