In a move to overhaul the existing child labour law of India and to enforce a complete ban on the employment of children, the Union Cabinet has on May 13, 2015, approved amendments to the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2012 (“Child Labour Bill”) which seeks to amend the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986 (“Child Labour Act”). The current law on child labour in India prohibits the employment of children in certain specified occupations1 such as carpet weaving, soap manufacture, manufacture of explosives, gem cutting and polishing, manufacture of dyes, etc.
The objective of the proposed amendments is to ensure that:
- education of children between the age group of 6 - 14 years is not compromised;
- the law is brought in line with the Indian Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (“Right to Education Act”); and
- the law is aligned with the International Labour Organization standards.
The Child Labour Act once amended by the Child Labour Bill will be titled the ‘Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986’ to reflect the expanded scope of the statute. For the Child Labour Bill to become law, it will have to be passed by both the houses of the Parliament and receive the assent of the President of India.The important amendments proposed under the Child Labour Bill (as amended by the Union Cabinet) include:
- Definition of ‘child’: The Child Labour Bill proposes to sync the law on child labour with the Right to Education Act by amending the definition of ‘child’ to mean a person who has not completed 14 years of age or such age as specified under the Right to Education Act, whichever is higher.
- Definition of ‘adolescent’ introduced: ‘Adolescent’ has been defined to mean a person who has completed 14 years of age but not completed 18 years of age.
- Prohibition of child labour: The Child Labour Bill envisages a complete ban on employing children, except in the following two cases, wherein:
- Children are helping in their family or family enterprise(s) provided that (i) such enterprise is not involved in hazardous processes and (ii) the work is carried out after school hours or during vacations.
- Children are working in the audio-visual entertainment industry including advertisement, films, television serials or any such other entertainment or sports activities except circus subject to (i) compliance with prescribed conditions and adoption of safety measures, and (ii) the work does not affect the school education of the child.
- Prohibition on employment of adolescents: New provision prohibiting employment of adolescents in hazardous occupations and processes has been introduced.
- Child labour to be made a cognizable offence: Offence of employing a child or adolescent in contravention of the law by an employer is proposed to be 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.
- Punishments for contravention: While significant increase in the punishment for employers has been proposed, the punishment for parents / guardians is proposed to be relaxed. As per the Child Labour Bill, 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 (approx. USD 150).
- Constitution of Child and Adolescent Labour Rehabilitation Fund: A special fund proposed to be created for rehabilitation of rescued children and adolescents.
However, please note that the above is only a proposal and will be effective as law once it is passed by both the houses of the Parliament and receives the assent of the President of India. We shall keep you informed on all updates in relation to the same.