Law made Easy

“Child” as defined by the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 is a person who has not completed the age of fourteen years.

Children, by will or by force are employed to work in the harsh conditions and atmosphere which becomes a threat to their life.

No child (below the age of 14 years) shall be employed or permitted to work in any occupation or process.

Hiring children below the age of 14 years for any kind of work, other than in certain family-based work, is a cognizable offence and will attract a jail term of upto 2 years. Adolescents between the age of 14 – 18 years cannot be employed in any hazardous occupation.

Hazardous Employment

Hazardous child labour is work that is performed by children in dangerous and unhealthy conditions that can lead to a child being killed, injured or made ill as a result of poor safety and health standards or employment conditions. This is referred to as hazardous child labour.

Examples of hazardous employment are-

  • Anything that can cause spills or trips such as cords running across the floor or ice
  • Anything that can cause falls such as working from heights, including ladders, scaffolds, roofs, or any raised work area
  • Unguarded machinery and moving machinery parts that a worker can accidentally touch
  • Electrical hazards like frayed cords, missing ground pins, improper wiring
  • Confined spaces.

Rules for employing Adolescents

The Child Labour (Prevention and Regulation) Amendment Act allows adolescents to work in non-hazardous occupations and processes. If an adolescent is employed, the following conditions must be satisfied by the employer:

  • The period of work on each day should be fixed in a manner that no period or work would exceed three hours.
  • The adolescent must have an interval for rest for at least one hour after working for three hours.
  • The total time spent working by an adolescent cannot exceed 6 hours in a day, including the time spent in waiting for work.
  • Adolescents cannot be employed during the hours of 7PM to 8AM.
  • Adolescents cannot be made to work overtime.
  • Adolescents cannot work in more than one establishment, at anytime.
  • Adolescents must be provided in every week, a holiday of one whole day.

Punishments relating to child labour

  • For parents/guardians There shall not be any punishment in case of a first offence by parents/guardians. In case of a second and subsequent offence, the penalty prescribed is a maximum fine of Rs. 10,000.
  • For employer- Any offence committed by an employer which is punishable under the Child Labour act has been made a cognizable offence. Accordingly, the authorities can file a first information report and commence investigations into the offence without a court order and can arrest without a warrant.
  • PenaltyEmployment of a child or permitting a child to work in any occupation or process in contravention to the statute would lead to Imprisonment of: 6 months to 2 years Fine: Rs.20,000 to Rs. 50,000 or both.

How can we eliminate child labour from our society?

Education is a human right with immense power to transform. On its foundation rest the cornerstones of freedom, democracy and sustainable human development Child labour can limit the time and energy children spend on education. Many forms of child labour are prohibited in international standards. While child labour can be an obstacle to education, at the same time education is instrumental in the prevention of child labour.  Through education, parents and children alike become more aware of its benefits, and the harm that child labour can cause.  And access to education helps reduce poverty, one of the root causes of child labour. It can be concluded that education is the key to abolish child labour across the globe.

Role/Importance of education or Right to Education Act in eliminating child labour

The RTE act is not innovative law. Universal adult franchise in the act was opposed since most of the population was illiterate. Article 45 in the Constitution of India was set up as an act: “The State shall endeavour to provide, within a period of ten years from the commencement of this Constitution, for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years”

  • The Act makes education a fundamental right of every child between the ages of 6 and 14 and specifies minimum norms in elementary schools. It requires all private schools to reserve 25% of seats to children from poor families (to be reimbursed by the state as part of the public-private partnership plan).

STOP Child Labour- It promotes jobs & protects people.


*This Article is a part of the ‘Know Your Rights’ series by Centre for Clinical Legal Education, Maharashtra National Law University, Mumbai 

Law made Easy

[Disclaimer: This note is for general information only. It is NOT to be substituted for legal advice or taken as legal advice. The publishers of the blog shall not be liable for any act or omission based on this note]

“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”

 – Benjamin Franklin

Objective

It is written with an objective to reflect on the laws currently in force in India, to tackle the global menace of human trafficking and contemplate the journey ahead to reach towards elimination of this socio-politico-economic evil through legislative competence, executive efficiency and judicial courage.

Introduction

According to the definition of United Nations: “trafficking is any activity leading to recruitment, transportation, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force or a position of vulnerability”. Human trafficking is the trade of humans for the purpose of forced labour, sexual slavery, or commercial sexual exploitation for the trafficker or others. This may encompass providing a spouse in the context of forced marriage or the extraction of organs or tissues, including for surrogacy and ovary removal. It can happen in any community and victims can be of any age, race, gender or nationality. Traffickers might use violence, manipulation, or false promises of well-paying jobs or romantic relationships to lure victims into trafficking situations. People can be trafficked and exploited in many forms, including being forced into sexual exploitation, labour, begging, crime (such as growing cannabis or dealing drugs), domestic servitude, marriage or organ removal. Human trafficking is an egregious human rights violation that occurs throughout the world. Due to its complex cross-border nature, human trafficking requires a coordinated, multi-disciplinary national and international response. Human trafficking is the third largest organised crime after drugs and the arms trade across the globe.

Legal Framework against Human Trafficking in India

At present the legal regime of trafficking in humans is explicitly and implicitly governed by the following statutes towards curbing the menace. The table containing relevant provisions is as follows:

Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956

Section 3 – It provides for punishment to a person for keeping a brothel or allowing premises to be used as a brothel or who is in charge of any such premises either by himself or through a tenant, occupier, etc.


Section 4 – It provides for punishment to any person over 18 years of age, living on the earnings of prostitution of another person.


Section  5 – It provides for punishment to any person who is involved in procuring, inducing or taking another person for the sake of prostitution.


Section 6 – It provides for punishment to a person who detains another person with or without his consent in any brothel or any premises for prostitution with an intent that such detained person may have sexual intercourse with any person who is not the spouse of such detained person.


Section 7 – Any person who carries on prostitution and the person with whom such prostitution is carried on in any premises which is within close proximity to a public place, including a hospital, nursing home, place of religious worship, hostel, educational institution, or in an area notified under the provisions of the Act, can be punished with imprisonment for a term of three months.


Section 8 – Seducing or soliciting for the purpose of prostitution is also an offence and punishable with imprisonment up to six months or a fine up to Rs 500, in the case of a first conviction. In case of a subsequent conviction, the prison sentence can be extended up to one year including a fine of Rs 500. However, if the person soliciting is a man, the statute provides that he shall be punishable with not less than seven days imprisonment which may be extended to three months.


Section 18 – A Magistrate can order the immediate closure of a place that is being used as a brothel or as a place for prostitution and is within 200 meters of any “public place” as referred to in Section 7 above, and direct the eviction from the premises from where any person is ostensibly carrying out prostitution on receipt of information from the police or otherwise. The occupier is given only seven days notice for eviction from such premises.


Section 20 – It empowers a Magistrate, on receiving information that any person residing in or frequenting any place within the local limits of his jurisdiction is a prostitute, to issue notice to such person requiring him to appear before the Magistrate and show cause why he should not be removed from the place and be prohibited from re-entering it, and an order to be passed by the Magistrate effecting the same on merits, non- compliance of which will attract punishment in accordance with this section.


Section 21 – The State Government may in its discretion establish as many protective homes and corrective institutions under this Act as it thinks fit and such homes and institutions when established shall be maintained in such manner as may be prescribed. Whoever establishes or maintains a protective home or corrective institution except in accordance with the provisions given shall be punishable under this section.


Section 22-A – If the State Government is satisfied that it is necessary for the purpose of providing for speedy trial of offences under this Act in any district or metropolitan area, it may, by notification in the Official Gazette and after consultation with the High Court, establish one or more Courts of Judicial Magistrates of the First Class, or, as the case may be, Metropolitan Magistrate, in such district or metropolitan area.


Section 22-B – Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, the State Government may, if it considers it necessary so to do, direct that offences under this Act shall be tried in a summary way by a Magistrate [including the presiding officer of a court established under sub-section (1) of Section 22-A] and the provisions of Sections 262 to 265 (both inclusive) of the said Code, shall, as far as may be, apply to such trial

Constitution of India

Article 23 –  It specifically prohibits “traffic in human beings and begar and other similar forms of forced labour”.


Article 39 – It states that men and women should have the right to an adequate means of livelihood and equal pay for equal work; that men, women and children should not be forced by economic necessity to enter unsuitable avocations; and that children and youth should be protected against exploitation. It is enshrined in the Constitution in the form of a directive to be followed while formulating policies for the State.


Article 39-A – It directs that the legal system should ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen because of economic or other disabilities.


 Note: Articles 14, 15, 21, 22 and 24 also emcompass certain provisions relating to human trafficking.

Penal Code, 1860

Penal Code, 1860 specifically deals with two kinds of kidnapping:
(a)  Section 360Kidnapping from India

(b) Section 361– Kidnapping from lawful guardianship


Section 362 – A trafficked person can also be subjected to an act of abduction covered under this section which involves using of deceitful means by another and thereby forcefully compelling this person to go from any place.


Section 363-A specifically punishes any person who kidnaps or maims a minor for purposes of begging.


Section 365 punishes any person who kidnaps or abducts another person with intent to secretly and wrongfully confine him/her.


Section 366 – punishes any person who kidnaps, abducts or induces woman to compel her marriage against her will, or be forced/seduced to have illicit intercourse.


Section 366-A punishes any person who by any means whatsoever induces any minor girl under the age of 18 years to go from any place or to do any act that such girl may be forced or seduced to have illicit intercourse with another person.


Section 370 – By the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, this section punishes all acts of trafficking in human beings and their exploitation.


Section 372 – If any person sells, lets to hire  or disposes of any other person who is a minor i.e. under the age of 18 years for purposes of prostitution, etc. shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 10 years and shall also be liable to fine.


Section 373 – If any person buys, hires or obtains possession of  any other person who is a minor i.e. under the age of 18 years for purposes of prostitution, etc. shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 10 years and shall also be liable to fine.


Sections 354, 354-A , 354-B , 354-C, and 354-D – These sections punish any person who assaults or uses criminal force on a woman intending to outrage modesty, disrobe her, or to commit an offence of voyeurism or stalking. Sections 354, 354-A, 354-B, 354-C, and 354-D were added by the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013.


Section 366-B – Any girl under age of 21 years being imported from a foreign country by a person with an intent that she will be forced or seduced to illicit intercourse with another person, the person so importing shall be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.


Sections 375 and 376 – These sections were added to make the justice-delivery system more responsive to the sexual offences against women. It explicitly deals with the definitions of rape, gang rape, repeatedly raped which is a major consequence of trafficking and also lays down punishments for such acts under the said sections.


Section 374 –The section defines that any person who compels another person to labour against his will shall be punished with imprisonment up to 1 year or fine or both. This section punishes those people who are involved in trafficking in humans with an intention to forced labour and grave exploitation.


Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976

[Read here]

An Act to provide for the abolition of bonded labour system with a view to preventing the economic and physical exploitation of the weaker sections of the people. The Act prohibits anyone from making any advance or compelling any person to render any bonded labour and states further that any agreement or custom requiring any person to do work as a bonded labour is void and provides for punishment for anyone who compels any person to render bonded labour or advance any bonded debt. Punishment in both cases is imprisonment up to 3 years and fine up to 2000 rupees. The bonded laborers are to be treated as victims and not as offenders.


Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986

[Read here]

An Act to prohibit the engagement of children in all occupations and to prohibit the engagement of adolescents in hazardous occupations and processes. It prohibits employment of children in hazardous industries and lays down safety measures and other requirements which shall be met irrespective of what is stated in other labour legislations.


Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989

[Read here]

An Act to prevent the commission of offences related to atrocities against the members of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, to provide for Special Courts and exclusive Special Courts for the trial of such offences and for the relief and rehabilitation of the victims of such offences. Many victims are from marginalised groups because traffickers are targeting on vulnerable people in socially and economically backward areas. This Act provides an additional tool to safeguard women and young girls belonging to SC/ST and also creates greater burden on the trafficker to prove his lack of complicity in the crime. This can be effective if the offender knows the status of victim. It specifically covers certain forms of trafficking, forced or bonded labour and sexual exploitation of women. A minimum punishment of 6 months is provided that could extend up to 5 years in any offence covered under the Act regarding trafficking in humans.


 Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues Act, 1994

[Read here]

This Act deals with criminal responsibility in cases of harvesting of organs and trafficking of persons for this purpose. The perpetrator includes traffickers, procurers, brokers, intermediaries, hospital or nursing staff and medical laboratories and their technicians involved in the illegal transplant procedure. Section 11 declares prohibition of removal or transplantation of human organs for any purpose other than therapeutic purposes and Section 19 deals with commercial dealing in human organs and clarifies that it punishes those who seek willing people or offer to supply organs and such traffickers and alike shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than five years but which may extend to ten years and shall be liable to fine which shall not be less than twenty lakh rupees but may extend to one crore rupees.


Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012

[Read here]

It has been drafted to strengthen the legal provisions for the protection of children from sexual abuse and exploitation. For the first time, a special law has been passed to address the issue of sexual offences against children. Sexual offences are currently covered under different sections in Penal Code. However, Penal Code, 1860 does not provide for all types of sexual offences against children and, more importantly, does not distinguish between adult and child victims.


Criminal Procedure Code, 1973

[Read here]

Responsibility for providing compensation to trafficking victims is fragmented between the Central Government and individual States. This is largely the result of Section 357 and Section 357-A CrPC. When the punishment itself contemplates sentence or fine Section 357 CrPC provides that the fine can be passed on to the victim. Even if that is not so, Section 357-A CrPC have the fund — a State fund, which can be extended to the victims of any crime (not limited to trafficking) who have suffered loss or injury. However, it fails to note the form or degree of such compensation.


Evolution through Judicial Pronouncements

 What is Human Trafficking

It was clearly laid down as early as in 1953 in Raj Bahadur v. State of W.B., 1953 SCC OnLine Cal 129 that traffic in human beings mean to deal in men and women like goods, such as to sell or let or otherwise dispose of. It would include traffic in women and children for immoral or other purposes.

Heinous Nature of the Crime vis-à-vis Moral Culpability

The Court observed in Vishal Jeet v. Union of India, (1990) 3 SCC 318 that:

“The causes and evil effects of prostitution maligning the society are so notorious and frightful that none can gainsay it. It is highly deplorable and heartrending to note that many poverty stricken children and girls in the prime of youth are taken to ‘flesh market’ and forcibly pushed into the ‘flesh trade’ which is being carried on in utter violation of all cannons of morality, decency and dignity of humankind. There cannot be two opinions—indeed there is none—that this obnoxious and abominable crime committed with all kinds of unthinkable vulgarity should be eradicated at all levels by drastic steps.”

 Human Trafficking and Child Prostitution

In Vishal Jeet v. Union of India, (1990) 3 SCC 318  the Court laid down following directions in this regard:

  1. All the State Governments and the Governments of Union Territories should direct their law enforcing authorities concerned to take appropriate and speedy action in eradicating child prostitution.
  2. The State Governments and the Governments of Union Territories should set up a separate Advisory Committee within their respective zones to make suggestions regarding the measures to be taken and the social welfare programmes to be implemented for the children and girls rescued from the vices of prostitution.
  3. All the State Governments and the Governments of Union Territories should take steps in providing adequate and rehabilitative homes manned by well-qualified trained social workers, psychiatrists and doctors.
  4. The Union Government should set up a committee of its own to evolve welfare programmes on the national level for the care, protection, rehabilitation, etc. of the young fallen victims and to make suggestions of amendments to the existing laws for the prevention of sexual exploitation of children.
  5. The Central Government and the Governments of States and Union Territories should devise a machinery of its own for ensuring the proper implementation of the suggestions that would be made by the respective committees.
  6. The Advisory Committee can also delve deep into devadasi system and jogin tradition and give their valuable advice and suggestions as to what best the Government could do in that regard.

Human Trafficking and Bonded Labour

The Supreme Court in Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India, (1984) 3 SCC 161 has elucidated the rehabilitation of bonded labour and directed the Government to award compensation to released/rescued bonded labour under the provisions of Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 after taking note of serious violation of fundamental and human rights:

“The rehabilitation of the released bonded labourers is a question of great importance, because if the bonded labourers who are identified and freed, are not rehabilitated, their condition would be much worse than what it was before during the period of their serfdom and they would become more exposed to exploitation and slide back once again into serfdom even in the absence of any coercion. The bonded labourer who is released would prefer slavery to hunger, a world of ‘bondage and illusory security’ as against a world of freedom and starvation.”

It may be pointed out that the concept of rehabilitation has the following four main features as addressed by the Secretary, Ministry of Labour, Government of India to the various States Governments:

  • Psychological rehabilitation must go side by side with physical and economic rehabilitation.
  • The physical and economic rehabilitation has 15 major components, namely, allotment of house sites and agricultural land, land development, provision of low cost dwelling units, agriculture, provision of credit, health medical care and sanitation, supply of essential commodities, education of children of bonded labourers and protection of civil rights, etc.
  • There is scope for bringing about an integration among the various central and State sponsored schemes for a more qualitative rehabilitation and to avoid duplication.
  • While drawing up any scheme/programme of rehabilitation of freed bonded labour, the latter must necessarily be given the choice between the various alternatives for their rehabilitation and such programme should be finally selected for execution as would meet the total requirements of the family of freed bonded labourers to enable them to cross the poverty line on the one hand and to prevent them from sliding back to debt bondage on the other.

The Supreme Court in PUCL v. State of T.N., (2013) 1 SCC 585 directed the District Magistrates to effectively implement Sections 10, 11 and 12 of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 and expected them to discharge their functions with due diligence, empathy and sensitivity, taking note of the fact that the Act is a welfare legislation.

Human Trafficking and Child Labour

In Lakshmi Kant Pandey v. Union of India, (1984) 2 SCC 244 P.N. Bhagwati, J., observed:

6. It is obvious that in a civilised society the importance of child welfare cannot be over-emphasised, because the welfare of the entire community, its growth and development, depend on the health and well-being of its children. Children are a ‘supremely important national asset’ and the future well-being of the nation depends on how its children grow and develop.”

The Supreme Court in M.C. Mehta v. State of T.N., (1996) 6 SCC 756 seeing the severe violation of fundamental rights in cases of child labour observed:

“… if there is at all a blueprint for tackling the problem of child labour, it is education. Even if it were to be so, the child of a poor parent would not receive education, if per force it has to earn to make the family meet both the ends. Therefore, unless the family is assured of income aliunde, problem of child labour would hardly get solved; and it is this vital question which has remained almost unattended.

… if employment of child below the age of 14 is a constitutional indiction insofar as work in any factory or mine is concerned, it has to be seen that all children are given education till the age of 14 years in view of this being a fundamental right now, and if the wish embodied in Article 39(e) that the tender age of children is not abused and citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocation unsuited to their age, and if children are to be given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and childhood is to be protected against exploitation as visualised by Article 39(f), it seems to us that the least we ought to do is see to the fulfilment of legislative intendment behind enactment of the Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986.”

 In view of the Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 the offending employer must be asked to pay compensation for every child employed in contravention of the provisions of the Act a sum of Rs 20,000 which is to be deposited in Child Labour Rehabilitation-cum-Welfare Fund.

Constitution of Committee to Combat Trafficking in Humans

In Gaurav Jain v. Union of India, (1997) 8 SCC 114, the Supreme Court passed an order directing, inter alia, the constitution of a committee to make an in-depth study of the problems of prostitution, child prostitution, and children of prostitutes, to help evolve suitable schemes for their rescue and rehabilitation.

The Supreme Court observed:

27. … The ground realities should be tapped with meaningful action imperatives, apart from the administrative action which aims at arresting immoral traffic of women under the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act through inter-State or Interpol arrangements and the nodal agency like the CBI is charged to investigate and prevent such crimes.”

The Central Government pursuant to the directions issued by the Supreme Court in Gaurav Jain case constituted a “Committee on the Prostitution, Child Prostitutes and Plan of Action to Combat  Trafficking and Commercial and Sexual Exploitation of Women and Children”.  

Vocational Trainings and Social Welfare Boards

The Supreme Court in Budhadev Karmaskar v. State of W.B., (2011) 11 SCC 538 had issued notice to all States while noting down the concern on the pathetic conditions of sex workers:

 “… we strongly feel that the Central and the State Governments through Social Welfare Boards should prepare schemes for rehabilitation all over the country for physically and sexually abused women commonly known as prostitutes as we are of the view that the prostitutes also have a right to live with dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution of India since they are also human beings and their problems also need to be addressed.

A woman is compelled to indulge in prostitution not for pleasure but because of abject poverty. If such a woman is granted opportunity to avail some technical or vocational training, she would be able to earn her livelihood by such vocational training and skill instead of by selling her body. Hence, we direct the Central and the State Governments to prepare schemes for giving technical/vocational training to sex workers and sexually abused women in all cities in India.”

Critical Analysis — Old Wine in a New Bottle

There need to be a comprehensive single legislation that will cover all forms of trafficking. Hence, the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018 was introduced in Lok Sabha by the Minister of Women and Child Development, Ms Maneka Gandhi on 18-7-2018 and passed in that House on 26-7-2018 which eventually lapsed later due to dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha. The Bill provided for the prevention, rescue, and rehabilitation of trafficked persons. The present legislation/well intentioned but lapsed Bill ignored the factors that drive people to risky situations and failed to integrate the lessons learned by anti-trafficking stakeholders since the adoption of the United Nations Trafficking Protocol popularly known as “Palermo Protocol”. It adopted a belief that trafficking can be stopped through harsh punishments, rather than addressing root causes, and this indeed may have undermined, rather than protected, the human rights of trafficked persons. Implementing a rights-based approach that facilitates, and does not criminalise migration and one that promotes decent work is the most constructive approach to prevent human trafficking.  This is expected to be the litmus test while drafting the next Bill.

Conclusion

While the lapsed Bill was a well-timed and well-intentioned attempt by the Indian Government to enact a comprehensive legislation which will tackle human trafficking and its fundamental problems. However, the Government was supposed to adopt a broader perspective towards trafficking in accordance with Expert Committee recommendations. Ensuring effective legislation and its implementation will take time and patience but considering Modi Government has a clear majority in Parliament and that the Women and Child Development Ministry is fully devoted towards fighting this menace, it is hoped that any new Bill will bring all stakeholders on board to enact a people-centered social legislation which addresses some of the problems identified here and in line with the expert committee recommendations.

Thus, it may be concluded using the words of Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, without prejudice to any one gender,

“No nation, with all its boasts, and all its hopes, can ever morally be clean till all its women are really free — free to live without sale of their young flesh to lascivious wealth or commercialising their luscious figures….”

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: A Division Bench of N. Kirubakaran and V.M. Velumani, JJ., while addressing a matter with regard to child labour and the corrupt government officials existing in the system stated that,

“Parents should take care of their children and owing to their helplessness, they cannot send their children to work when the Government is providing education free of cost and also, free food apart from scholarships.”

On the directions of this Court, Superintendent of Police, Assistant Commissioner of Labour, Tiruppur along with Child Welfare Committee officials had raided the Chenniyappa Yarn Spinners (P) Ltd., however, no child labour was found. 

Chairperson, Child Welfare Board submitted that on an earlier date when the raid was conducted, during that time two child labour was to be working on the premises along with a few adolescents.

Few adolescents who were working at 8th respondents company stated that they were not willing to work as they were underpaid and working conditions were also not proper.

In view of the above situation, workers were rescued and kept at “SNEHA CHILD HOME”, Tiruppur and later handed over to their parents.

Court also enquired a few adolescent workers working in the 8th respondent company, who stated that they were not facing any problems working there but the Court observed that the said children were school-going children and it is known as to how they were entrusted with work when they had to go to school.

Bench also observed that the children were being tutored to speak and say statements that they were being educated while working, which on the face of it looks false.

It is also brought to the notice of this Court that some of the children, who have written the Plus Two Examination are unaware that the results have been declared. When that is the position, it is very difficult to believe that the Company is providing education to them.

Another significant fact that was brought to the notice of the Court was that most of the adolescent children were brought during the pandemic period to work in the 8th respondent company and no proper e-passes were obtained.

To bring children from one district to another without e-passes only implies that if money is paid, the authorities would bend and flout the Rules.

Bench added to its decision that the present case is a classic case that demonstrates as to how corrupt government servants utilize any situation to make an illegal gain.

Media has widely reported about the instances of getting e-passes by payment to authorities. This aspect has to be looked into seriously by the Government.

“…some of the corrupt officials, who are involved in issuing e-passes are bent upon making booty even in this worst scenario.”

“Cruel bloodthirsty wolves and they should be dealt with an iron hand.”

Court was shocked to note existence of cut-throat corrupt officials existing in the system.

Bench directed the 8th respondent to file an affidavit as to how they were able to bring the children to company premises without e-passes during the lockdown period.

The present case is only the tip of an iceberg as hundreds of such companies are in existence with rampant child labour, therefore police officials need to be vigilant and cautious of this social menace and hence conduct frequent raids to curb the same.

Matter has been listed for 20-08-2020. [C.M. Sivababu v. State of T.N., HCP No. 1299 of 2020, decided on 07-08-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Calcutta High Court: A Division Bench of Soumen Sen and Harish Tandon, JJ., while addressing a petition stated that,

“…physical and mental health of the children are of paramount consideration and no compromise should be made on this score.”

Court directed the Principal Secretary, Home Department to be present in view of the alarming rise in child trafficking and child rights abuse.

Advocate General for the State, Kishore Dutta apprised the Court with regard to physical and mental health conditions of the children at all the Homes.

Secretary, Department of Women and Child Development and Social Welfare submitted in their report that the ratio of children and councillors (i.e. 50:1) is more or less maintained in all the Homes except few homes where the number of Councillors possibly have not been increased, as the number of children in such Homes had never exceeded the sanctioned strength.

Court has also been informed that the Councillors whose service for the time being had remained unutilized due to reduced number of children in various Homes may be deployed in other Homes or rearrangement could be made from the Councillors functioning in a particular district depending upon the necessities and exigencies of the situation.

Bench called for a report from the Secretary on the following aspect:

Government should maintain a list of Councilors in each district on the basis of the sanctioned strength of each Home so that when the sanctioned strength is reached the children do not suffer due to lack of counselling.

all the children be in homes or with their parents during this time require constant monitoring and their safely and security are of paramount consideration.

Secretary, Department of Health in his affidavit had disclosed the performance and the good health practice initiated by the said department for the children of the migrant workers.

Bench explained to Secretary, Health Department, the details that would be required with regard to the institutional quarantine, home quarantine and what exactly would mean with regard to the expression “Higher Referral” and “other specific action taken”.

Further the concerns that were placed before by the Court were as follows:

  • Why the mental health support was provided only to 13603 children out of 29658 and COVID-19 test was carried out only in respect of 3005 children?
  • Infrastructure of the Institutions, which were designated as institutional quarantine centers including the number of Doctors and Councilors attached to such quarantine centers.

Court directed Secretary, Department of Women and Child Development and Social Welfare to file an affidavit in the above regard.

Bench observed the following:

a report has been filed by a NGO “Bachpan Bachao Andolan” before the Supreme Court wherefrom it appears that 136 minor girls being married off in Bengal due to the lockdown and the devastation caused by cyclone Amphan. An apprehension is expressed that on lifting of lockdown there is likely to be a massive spurt in child trafficking – for labour and commercial sexual exploitation. The State of West Bengal has many porous districts and incidents of child trafficking are not uncommon. The middlemen are quite active in some of these porous districts of Bengal.

In view of the above, Court stated that it would be failing in its duty if they cannot protect the children from any kind of abuse including their exploitation.

The children are most vulnerable class and susceptible to be trafficked either in lieu of a better future or for economic sustainability of the family, which they belong to.

It is a common perception that the natal family is the safest heaven of the younger children yet they are trafficked by the family itself because of the poverty and uncertainty of the social stability. The exodus of the migrant labourers due to pandemic have exposed these younger children to be trafficked for some monetary gain and sustainability in life.

West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights report is alarming where child marriages and trafficking have been reported.

 Court directed Panchayat Pradhan of all the panchayats to sensitize the districts about the child rights and evils of child marriages.

Secretary, Labour Department was also directed to file a report as to the steps taken to prevent child labour.

Matter to be further considered on 18th June, 2020. [Contagion of COVID-10 Virus in Children Protection homes, In Re; 2020 SCC OnLine Cal 974; decided on 10-06-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: Rajeev Misra, J. while allowing the criminal revision set aside the conviction and sentence awarded to the revisionist passed by the CJM, Aligarh and affirmed by the Special Judge (EC Act)/Additional Sessions Judge, Aligarh.

In the Instant case, criminal revision order of 08-08-2001 passed by the CJM, Aligarh, under Section 14 of the Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 convicting the revisionist for three years imprisonment and fine of Rs 2000 was affirmed by Special Judge (EC Act)/ Additional Session Judge, Aligarh.

The complainant L.S. Gupta, Labour Enforcement Officer, Aligarh visited the premises of the accused/revisionist along with Pradeep Kumar, Senior Clerk and Girish Chandra, Junior Clerk, respectively, four children who were less than 14 years of age were found to be working in the said premises. The paper on which details of the children were noted were torn by the accused/revisionist and therefore, the details of the child workers could not be entered.

Counsel for the revisionist/accused, Hemendra Pratap Singh denied the engagement of child labour in his statement under Section 313 CrPC and further alleged that the prosecution witnesses (Labour Enforcement Officer and Senior Office Assistant in the Office of the Assistant Labour Commission, Aligarh) had demanded Rs 500 from the revisionist. The revisionist is in cloth business and to harass him, this complaint was filed against him and false criminal proceedings were initiated.

It was submitted by the Counsel of the revisionist that as per the provisions of Section 11 of the Act there was no such material collected by the complainant on the basis of which it could be proved that the accused/revisionist had employed child labourers in his commercial organization.

In case any child labourer was employed by the accused/revisionist it was the duty of the complainant to recover such child and rehabilitate him as per the mandate of Section 14(C) of Act. It was further submitted that in the absence of any material to show that the age of the alleged child labourers was below the prescribed minimum as per Rule 17 of the Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Rules, 1988 (the Rules) was not complied with. Thus, merely on the basis of hearsay evidence, the accused/revisionist has been convicted.

The Court after analyzing the material on record observed that except for the photocopy of the alleged inspection memo no other document was filed by the complainant before the court below. The mandatory provisions of Rule 17 of the Rules were not complied with to ascertain the age of the child labourers. Consequently, there was no material before the court below to assume that child labourers were employed in the commercial organization of the accused/revisionist. [Santosh Kolanki v. State of U.P., 2019 SCC OnLine All 2831, decided on 02-08-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: In a petition filed to quash the ongoing prosecution against the petitioner under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 against the petitioner, the Bench of B. Sudheendra Kumar, J., while observing that the prosecution failed to prove that the minor girl working in the petitioner’s house was under bondage or was doing forced labour, also dealt with the issue of employment of children in households and of exploitation of child employees with special emphasis on the interpretation of Sections 79, 75, 76 and 78 of the 2015 Act. It was held by the Court that, employment of a child in households is permissible to the extent that the child is not kept in bondage.

The petitioner had been accused under Sections 75 and 79 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 which deal with Punishment for Cruelty to Child and Exploitation of a Child Employee, respectively for allegedly engaging a minor girl as domestic help in his house. It was argued by the counsel of petitioner that there was no allegation that the minor victim girl was employed by the petitioner in bondage; therefore Section 79 of the 2015 Act is not attracted

It was observed by the Bench that in order to constitute an offence under Section 79, it must be looked whether the victim girl was employed by the petitioner in bondage. Since the term ‘bondage’ has not been defined in the Act, the Court had to rely on meanings provided for the term in various dictionaries. Also relying on other Central legislations and several International Conventions, the Court came to the conclusion that “engaging a child for the purpose of employment as such is not prohibited under Section 79 of the Act, if the engaging of the child for the employment is not by keeping the child in bondage.” It was further observed that the fundamental difference between ‘employment in bondage’ and ‘employment without any bondage’ is that a labourer does not have the liberty to leave the employment without the permission of the employer in the former; whereas, a labourer has the liberty to leave the employment without the permission of the employer in the latter. Though the victim had been employed as a house maid with the petitioner, it was established that she had not been kept in bondage; the petitioner had not withheld the earnings of the child or had used them for his purpose; and she had also not been physically or mentally harassed by anyone in the house. Therefore, further proceedings against the petitioner were quashed. [A. Nizamudhin v. Station House Officer, 2017 SCC OnLine Ker 7324, decided on 30.05.2017]

 

Amendments to existing lawsLegislation Updates

On 13.05.2015, the Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister, gave approval for moving official amendments to the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2012. The Official Amendments along with the Amendment Bill 2012 proposes to make the following salient amendments to the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986:-

1. Prohibition of employment of children below 14 years in all occupations and processes, except- a) where the child helps his family or family enterprises, which is other than any hazardous occupations or processes set forth in the Schedule, after his school hours or during vacations; b) where the child works as an artist in an audio-visual entertainment industry, including advertisement, films, television serials or any such other entertainment or sports activities except the circus, subject to such conditions and safety measures, as may be prescribed and provided that such work does not affect the school education of the child.

The proposed amendment has been made keeping in mind the country’s social fabric and socio-economic conditions.

2. Introduction of new definition of adolescent in the CLPR Act and prohibition of employment of adolescents (10 to 18 years of age) in hazardous occupations and processes, in order to protect adolescents from the employment not suitable to their age.

3. Stricter punishment for employers for violation of the Act has been proposed to act as a deterrent.

4. Offence of employing any child or adolescent in contravention of the Act by an employer has been made cognizable.

5. Taking a realistic view of the socio-economic conditions of the parents/guardians, there would be no punishment for violation of the provisions in case of a first offence by the parents/guardians, and in case of a second and subsequent offence, the penalty would be a fine which may extend to Rs.10,000.

6. Constitution of Child and Adolescent Labour Rehabilitation Fund for one or more districts for the rehabilitation of the child or adolescent rescued. Thus, the Act itself will provide for a fund to carry out rehabilitation activities.

 

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