In 1989 the United Nations gave birth to a Convention on the Rights of the Child which is an international agreement for protecting the children’s right. The significant aspect of the convention is that, this treaty has become the most widely ratified human rights treaty in the history and it has helped to transform children’s lives around the world. India has also ratified the treaty and there are also various provisions under the India Constitution which specifically protect the rights of children and prohibit child labour. Along with constitutional provisions, there are many legislations and statutes in India which have been enacted in order to reduce the exploitation of the children and protect their rights.
- Child Labour:
Almost every third statute in India defines the term child in its own way. The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 defines “Child” as a person who has not completed the age of fourteen years. Further it is very important to understand that all the work done by children cannot be classified as child labour. There are few activities like helping the parents around the home, assisting in a family business, working to learn skill development or even working to earn pocket money after school hours and these activities cannot be considered as child labour. These activities help in contributing towards the development of children and helps in improving their skills. The term “child labour” is often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development. It basically refers to that work which affects the mental, physical, social and moral behavior of the children and that work creates an impact on their schooling and deprives their right of enjoying their childhood. The worst form of child labour is defined as:
- all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom and forced or compulsory labour, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict;
- the use, procuring or offering of a child for prostitution, for the production of pornography or for pornographic performances;
- the use, procuring or offering of a child for illicit activities, in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs as defined in the relevant international treaties;
- work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children. 
Child labour can be seen in all the sectors including agricultural, manufacturing, quarrying and minning, and domestic services as well. Child labour is the combined product of many causes like poverty, social norms condoning it, lack of decent work opportunities for adults and adolescents, lack of educational resources, addiction, diseases or disability, growing population, illegal activities, the lure of cheap labour, migration and emergencies. Child labour is one of the major causes which affects the attendance and schooling of children. The financial difficulty and poor condition of their family forces them to work at any place where they are also exploited by the employer. Hence, child labour creates a negative impact on the physical and mental health of the child.
- Provisions under the Indian Constitution
The Indian Constitution through various articles enshrined in the Fundamental Rights and the Directive Principles of State Policy provides various expressed provisions pertaining to child labour and protects the rights of children:
- Article 21A: The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age six to 14 years.
- Article 23: Provides that there should be prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labours.
- Article 24: No child below the age of 14 years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment;
- Article 39 (e): The State shall direct its policy towards securing that the health and strength of workers, men and women and the tender age of childrenare not abused and that they are not forced by economic necessity to enter vocations unsuited to their age and strength.
- Article 39 (f): Children shall be given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth shall be protected against moral and material abandonment.
- Article 45: The State shall endeavor to provide within a period of 10 years from the commencement of the Constitution for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of 14 years.
- Article 47: Provides an obligation on the State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health.
- Article 51A(k): This article casts a duty on every citizen who is a parent or guardian to provide opportunities for education to his child or ward who is between the age of six and fourteen years.
- Legislations and Policies Against Child Labour in India
The problem of child labour is one of the major challenges before the nation. The Government has always been keen in eradicating this problem and has been implementing various pro-active measures to curb this issue. The Government has enacted a number of legislations to protect the rights of children and tackle the problems relating to child labour. Following are various laws enacted by the Government to prohibit child labour:
- The Factories Act of 1948: The Act prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 years in any factory. The law also provides working hours for the children who are permitted to work in factory and provides for all the safety measures which must be implemented in a factory.
- The Minimum Wages Act of 1948: This act defines adolescent, adult and child. Further it provides for fixing minimum rates of wages in certain employment for different class of people given in the scheduled employment and also provides the number of working hours which constitutes a normal working day for them.
- The Mines Act of 1952: The law comprehensively and exclusively deals with health, welfare and the safety of the workers employed in mining activity.The Act prohibits the employment of children below 18 years of age in a mine. Mining is considered as one of the most dangerous occupations, which in the past has led to many major accidents taking life of children and hence the children are prohibited from working in such activities.
- The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986: This is the most comprehensive legislation in India to overcome child labor. The Act prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 years in hazardous occupations and processes and to regulate the conditions of work of children in other employments. Recently, Government has enacted the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016 which came into force with effect from 1st September, 2016. The Amended Act, named as the Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986 inter-alia covers complete prohibition on employment or work of children below 14 years of age in all occupations and processes; linking the age of the prohibition of employment with the age for free and compulsory education under Right to Education Act, 2009; prohibition on employment of adolescents (14 to 18 years of age) in hazardous occupations or processes and making stricter punishment for the employers contravening the provisions of the Act. The act also provides a comprehensive list of activities which are considered as hazardous occupations.
- The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) of Children Act of 2015: 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. This act provides punishment to those who act in contravention to the previous acts by employing children to work. The act also provides for punishment to the person who employs or uses a child for the purpose of begging or causes any child to beg.
- TheRight of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act of 2009: The law mandates free and compulsory education to all children aged 6 to 14 years. The act also provides provisions relating to allotment of seats for the children from disadvantaged groups and physically challenged children. This act was passed to make education a fundamental right for all children between the ages of 6 to 14.
- Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act of 2012: POCSO Act,which has come into effect from 14th November, 2012 is a special law to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation. It provides precise definitions for different forms of sexual abuse, including penetrative and non-penetrative sexual assault, sexual harassment. The POCSO Act acknowledges various kind of child sex abuse and provides stringent punishment for the same. It provides for child friendly procedures at every stage of trial and stipulates mandatory reporting of the crime. Hence, this is also one of the important legislation which protects the abuse against child.
- National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR): The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) was set up in March 2007 under the Commissions for Protection of Child Rights (CPCR) Act, 2005, an Act of Parliament. National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) is a statutory body under the Commissions for Protection of Child Rights (CPCR) Act, 2005 under the administrative control of the Ministry of Women & Child Development, Government of India. The commission was established with an objective to ensure that all Laws, Policies, Programmes, and Administrative Mechanisms are in consonance with the Child Rights perspectiveas enshrined in the Constitution of India and the UN Convention on the Rights of the child.
- National Policy on Child Labour: The National Policy on Child Labour was declared in August, 1987, which contained the action plan for tackling the problem of Child Labour. The policy provided to establish: (i) A legislative action plan, where the government enacted the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986, (ii) Focusing and convergence of general development programmes for benefiting children wherever possible. Under the same scheme, a Core Group on convergence of various welfare schemes of the Government has been constituted in the Ministry of Labour & Employment to ensure that, the families of the Child Labour are given priority for their upliftment and (iii) Project-based action plan of action for launching of projects for the welfare of working children in areas of high concentration of Child Labour.
- National Child Labour Project Scheme: The Government had initiated the NCLP scheme in 1988 to rehabilitate working children. The scheme seeks to adopt a sequential approach with focus on rehabilitation of children working in hazardous occupations & processes. The Government issues guidelines for implementing the schemes and brings progressive changes to achieve the targets.
- National Child Protection Policy: The Child Protection Policy aims to protect the children in the country from violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect. It provides a framework for all institution, and organization (including corporate and media houses), government or private sector to understand their responsibilities in relation to safeguarding/ protecting children and promoting the welfare of children; individually and collectively.
- Role of Indian Judiciary
The Indian Judiciary has played a very important role in the protection of child labour. The Judiciary has always taken preventive measure to safeguard the children from exploitation. It has protected the children from the employer from unfair and abusive labour practices and it has also provided measures for fixing their working hours, providing medical facilities, fixed the number of wages etc. The Judiciary has also directed State authority to implement the policies and programmes to protect their interest. Following are the cases where the Apex Court has protected the children from exploitation from the employer and prohibited the child labour:
- People’s Union for Democratic Rights v. Union of India
In this case the issue was raised on “whether there was any violation of the rights of the workers by the contractors?” the Supreme Court had observed that there was a breach of Article 24 of the Constitution to employ children below the age of 14 in construction work. The court proceeded to prohibit any kind of violation of Articles 23 and 24 and further laid emphasis on strict observance of fundamental rights by private individuals and spoke strongly against any form of forced labour.
- Laborers Working on Salal Hydro – electri Project vs. the State Of Jammu And Kashmir
In this case a bench of Justice P. N. Bhagwati and R.B. Misra held that “That no child under the age of 14 years is employed by any contractor/sub-contractor on any factories in the schemes. In case any child labourer is included by any contractor/subcontractor prompt orders for their break should be furnished forthwith and an outline report provided to the sanction”.
- P. Bandhua Mukti Morcha Vs Union of India
In this case the Supreme Court of India stated that if no steps are taken under Bonded Labour System Act – 1976 by the Government then it would be a violation of Article 23 of the Constitution. Article 23 states that children should not be forced to work at cheap wages due to their economical or social disadvantage.
- C. Metha Vs State of Tamil Nadu
The Supreme Court has not allowed children to work in a prohibited occupation. According to the judges, “the provisions of Article 45 in the Directive Principles of State Policy has still remained a far cry and according to this provision all children up to the age of 14 years are sponsored to be in school, economic necessity forces grown up children to seek employment.
- Unni Krishnan Vs Andhra Pradesh
The Supreme Court in its judgment held that children up to the age of 14 had a fundamental right to free education.
Child Labour has been one of the major and serious concerns for the Indian Government. The contribution of Social Activists like Nobel Laureate Kailas Satyarthi is commendable in rescuing labour bound children in India. The Government has always been taking steps to tackle this problem through the strict implementing of various laws, regulations and rehabilitative measures. The State Government is imposed with the responsibility of identifying the violations of the law and detect the cases so that strict action can be taken against the violators. It is also important to note that increasing population and poverty are the root cause of child labour in India and hence a law on prohibition on child labour and its enforcement mechanism cannot alone help to eradicate the issue. Improvement in the economic condition and standard of living of the people can help to control the rising problem of child labour. Effective Coordination of the Government with the NGOs and international organizations can also be a greater step towards achieving the target. It is also important for the society to support the child by providing access to various facilities like medical service, legal assistance, psychological and counseling support. Hence, it is the responsibility of every individual to protect the rights of children and prohibit all the practices causing child labour because children are the architecture of the future of our nation who will help in the development of our Country.
 The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 (Act No. 61 of 1986), s. 2(ii).
 Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999, art. 3.
 Indian Constitutional Law by Professor M P Jain, 16 edition reprint 2012
 The Factories Act, 1948 (Act No. 63 of 1948), s. 67.
 The Minimum Wages Act of 1948 (Act No. 11 of 1948), s. 24.
 The Mines Act, 1952 (Act No. 35 of 1952), s. 40.
 https://labour.gov.in/childlabour/legislative-provisions last visited on June 06, 2020.
 The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) of Children Act, 2015 (Act No. 2 of 2016), s. 79.
 The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) of Children Act, 2015 (Act No. 2 of 2016), s. 76.
 The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (Act No. 35 of 2009), s. 3.
 https://pib.gov.in/Pressreleaseshare.aspx?PRID=1579546 last visited on June 06, 2020.
 https://labour.gov.in/sites/default/files/PolicyofGovernmenontheissueofChildLabour.pdf last visited on June 06, 2020.
 https://wcd.nic.in/sites/default/files/Download%20File_1.pdf June 06, 2020.
 MANU/SC/0038/1982 decided on 18.09.1982
 MANU/SC/0196/1984 decided on 25.04.1984
 MANU/SC/0051/1983 decided on 16.12.1983
 MANU/SC/0333/1993 decided on 04.02.1993