Merits and demerits of Child Labour Amendment Act, 2016

Child is future of a country and their holistic development must be the sole aim of a country and this requirement becomes more important for a developing country like India. The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016 received the assent of the President on 29th July, 2016 and came into force in order to amend Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 which became  “the Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986”. Amendments are made in Section 1 to 14 and Section 18 of the old Act and new sections like Section 3-A, 14-A, 14-B, 14-D, 17 A and 17 B are inserted in the said Act. The merits and demerits of the amendments of the Act is mentioned below in brief.                                             


Merits

Demerits

The amended act has introduced a new category -adolescents - children aged between 14-18 years. They could be employed in any occupation except some hazardous occupation. Children of age below 14 years cannot be employed in any occupation except where family business is involved. The rationale behind this provision is that socio-economic reality in India. Child can be employed in familial business and artistic field (i.e. movies, drama etc) beyond school hours and during vacation. Whereas, an adolescent can be employed in non hazardous industries. The family business may include business of not only parents of child but also other relatives and it ensures the protection of traditional occupational activities, family enterprises etc. Now a child can help their kith and kins in household business in free time. (non hazardous) The amendment reduced the exploitation of children and adolescents by clearly classifying where they can be employed. Absolute prohibition of children below 14 years in all occupations and no engagement of children below 18 years in hazardous occupations whose violation would attract 2 years of imprisonment and fine upto Rs 50,000. To boost lives of child & adolescent labour a Child and Adolescent Labour Rehabilitation Fund has been established. The amendment act made employment of child and adolescent labour a cognizable offence attracting a jail term of up to two years and penalty upto fifty thousand rupees.- earlier the penalty was from 3 months to 1 year which will act as deterrent and provide relief respectively.

 The definition of parents has been broadened which is a cause for concern. It is in contravention to Juvenile Justice Act 2000 that makes it punishable for anyone to procure or employ a child in hazardous occupations, it also contradicts the International Labour Organisation (ILO) minimum age convention and UNICEF convention on the rights of the child, to which India is a signatory. This would trap millions of poor low caste children in child labour forever. Section 3-clause-5 allows child labour in family enterprises but it does not define hours of work with family. In the process of familial business the child might be confined only to traditional work and might not focus on education. In the name of familial business the child can be forced to work than his capacity. In urban areas, it has been observed in many instances where the child is brought from the rural areas in name of familial business and is exploited mentally and physically. Permitting children to work after school imposes additional burden on the child physically and mentally. This is in contrast with art 21 of Constitution (Fundamental right -Right to good health ). Involvement in such hazardous activities at such tender age shall no doubt have adverse effect on health and moral of the children. The Provision of compounding of offence committed for the first time under sub-section (3) of section 14 or any offence committed by an accused person being parent or a guardian on payment of such amount will encourage violation.

It enforces stricter penalties for violating provisions of employment and it empowers the Central govt to make periodic inspection of places at which employment of children and adolescents are prohibited. The appropriate Government may confer such powers and impose such duties on a District Magistrate as may be necessary, to ensure that the provisions of this Act are properly carried out and the District Magistrate may specify the officer, subordinate to him, who shall exercise all or any of the powers, and perform all or any of the duties, so conferred or imposed and the local limits 

The list of hazardous occupations for children is reduced from 83 to 3 includes just Mining, Explosives and Hazardous process as defined in clause (cb) of the Factories Act, 1948. This means that working in chemical mixing units, cotton farms, battery cycling units, among others have been dropped. Further the changes in this hazardous industries list is previously done by the legislative body with Parliament approval now it will be done by the executive body where there is a scope of misuse. In effect, it is proposed to allow children to be employed in all kinds of unsafe processes, under the garb of family enterprise.

 

SUSANT DASH 
on 24 June 2017
Published in Labour & Service Law
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