– Dr. Vinod Patidar

Principal Indore Institute of Law


Child Labour

Child labour is the practice ofengaging children in economic activity, on part or full-time basis. This practice deprives children of their childhood, and is harmful to their physical and mental development. Poverty, lack of good schools and growth of informal economy are considered as the important causes of child labour in India.

The 1998 national census of India estimated the total number of child labour, aged 5-14, to be at 12.6 million, out of a total child population of 253 million in 5-14 age group. A 2009-2010 nationwide survey found that child labour prevalence had reduced to 4.98 million children (or less than 2% of children in 5-14 age group). The 2011 national census found that the total number of child labour, aged 5-14, to be at 4.35 million, and the total child population was 259.64 million in that age group. The child labour problem is not unique to India; worldwide, about 217 million children work, many full-time.

Child labour is a form of human rights violations. Around 185,000 children are working as domestic laborers (2001 census). It is the most highlighted problem globally. The children’s are being forced in many labour works, domestic works, bonded labour, rag picking, forced to work in roadside eateries, prostitution, in factories etc.

Causes of child labour

Poverty, child trafficking, ignorance of parents, discrimination of gender, children are easily targeted only for the reason that they cannot raise their voice as adults.


Section 12 ofIndia’s Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of1986 requires prominent display of ‘child labour is prohibited’ signs in many industries and construction sites in local language and English.

After its independence from colonial rule, India has passed a number of constitutional protections and laws on child labour. The Constitution of India in the part 3 of Fundamental Rights and the Directive of State Policy prohibits child labour below the age of 14 years in any factory or mine or castle or engaged in any other hazardous employment (Article 24). The constitution also envisioned that India shall, by 1960, provide infrastructure and resources for free and compulsory education to all children of the age six to 14 years. (Article 21-A and Article 45).

India has a federal form of government, and child labour is a matter on which both the central government and country governments can and have issued legislations. The major national legislative developments include the following:

The Factories Act of 1948 : TheAct prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 years in any factory. The law also placed rules on who, when and how long can pre-adults aged 15-18 years be employed in any factory.

The Mines Act of 1952 : The Act prohibits the employment of children below 18 years of age in a mine.

The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986 : The Act prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 years in hazardous occupations identified in a list by the law. The list was expanded in 2006, and 2008.

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) of Children Act of 2000: This law made it a crime, punishable with a prison term, for anyone to procure or employ a child in any hazardous employment or in bondage.

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory EducationAct of 2009: The law mandates free and compulsory education to allchildren aged 6 to 14 years. This legislation also mandated that 25 percent ofseats in everyprivate school must be allocated for childrenfrom disadvantaged groups and physically challenged children.

India formulated a National Policy on Child Labour in 1987. This Policy seeks to adopt a gradual & sequentialapproach with a focus on rehabilitation of children working in hazardous occupations. It envisioned strict enforcement of provisions on child labour combined with development programs to address the root causes of child labour such as poverty. In 1988, this led to the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) initiative. This legal and development initiatives continue with a current central government funding of ?6 billion, targeted solely to eliminate child labour in India. Despite these efforts, child labour remains a major challenge for India.


Article 24 strictly prohibits children to work in hazardous environment.

Article 21, 45 gives the right to education to all the children below the age of 14years.

Article 39 declares the duty of the State to provide the children with free facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity.


Our written constitution guarantees social justice, liberty and equality to all its citizens. For achieving these objectives, we have three organs of government, the legislature, the executive and,and the judiciary. Each of these is supreme within the sphere allotted to it. To interpret the spheres and enforce the rule of law, an independent authority is absolutely essential and this is furnished by the Courts of Justice. The Supreme Court of India, is the apex court and has been assigned a very important role, and constituted as a guardian of the constitution which is the yardstick of norms for other legislation.

It is in this spirit thatthe importance of the apex court has laid emphasis on the fact that the essential task of social justice is to take care of child, for him lies the hope of nation ‘s future.

In M.C. Mehta v. State of Tamil Nadu and others in this case the honorable Supreme Court observed that working conditions in the match factories are such that they involve health hazards in normal course and apart from the specialrisk involved in the process of manufacturing which has an adverse effect. Exposure oftender age to these hazards requires special attention. We are of the view that employment of children in match factories are directly connected with the manufacturing process of upliftment of finalproduction of match sticks or fireworks should not at all be permitted as Article 39(f) prohibits it.

The Court further observed that the spirit of the constitution is that children should not be employed in factories as childhood is a formative period and in terms of Article 45 they are meant to be subjected to free and compulsory education, until they complete the age of 14 years. Children can, therefore, be employed in the process of packing but packing should be done in an area away from the place of manufacturing to avoid exposure adverse incidents.

Honorable Court further observed that the state (in this case Tamil Nadu) is directed to enforce provisions relating to facilities for recreation and medical attention and of a basic diet during the working period to workers including children and medical care with a view to sound physical growth.

The Court also opined that compulsory insurance scheme should be provided for both adult and children employees for a sum of Rs 50000 by taking into consideration the hazardous nature of the employment.

In BandhuMuktiMorcha v. Union of India a writ petition Under Article 32 has been filed by way of Public Interest Litigation seeking issue of a writ of mandamus directing the government to take steps to stop employment of children in carpet industry in the State of Uttar Pradesh ; to appoint a Committee to investigate into their conditions of employment , and to issue welfare directives which are appropriate for total prohibition for the employment of children below 14 years and directing the respondent to give them facilities like education, health, sanitation, nutritious food etc.

The main contention by the petitioner group is that employment of the children in any industry or in hazardous industry, is the violation ofArticle 24 of the Constitution and derogatory to the mandates contained inArticle 39(e) and (f) and 45 of the Constitution read with preamble. Pursuant to filing of the writ petition the apex court appointed a commissioner to visit factories, manufacturing carpets and submit their findings as to whether any numbers of children below the age of 14 years are working in the carpet industry. The commissioner submitted that their report on 1 august 1991 that violation ofArticle 24 along with Article 39(e) an (f).

The Apex court observed that a child cannot develop to be a responsible and a productive member of futuresociety,unless an environment which is conducive to his social and physical health is assured to him. Every, nation, developed and developing link; its future with the states of the Child. Childhood holds the potential of the society. Children are the gift to the humanity. The parents themselves live for them. They embody the joyof life in them and in the innocence relieving the fatigue in their struggle of daily life. Parents regain peace and happiness in the company of the children. The children signify eternal optimism in the human being and always provide and better equipped for a broader human output, the society will feel happy with them. Neglecting the children means loss to the societyas a whole. Ifchildren are deprived of their childhood -socially , economically , physical and mentally- the nation gets deprived of the potential human resources for social progress, economic empowerment and peace and order , the social stability and good citizenry.