Employing a child below 14 years in any kind of occupation is set to become a cognizable offence, punishable with a maximum three years imprisonment or fine upto a maximum of Rs. 50,000.
The Union cabinet is likely to approve the Child & Adolescent Labour (Prohibition) Act, 1986 today which will allow employing children only between 14-18 years in non- hazardous industries like forest gathering, child care etc. Children between 14-18 years have been defined as "adolescents" in the amended Act.The existing Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, while prohibiting employment of children in hazardous industries allows children below 14 years of age to work in industries not considered to be hazardous.
The amended Act, being moved by the labour ministry, also puts a blanket ban on employing anybody below 18 years in hazardous occupation.
Such hazardous occupations have also been re-classified in line with the increase in the minimum age of child labour from 14 to 18 years.
Ministry officials said that banning any employment of children below 14 years will go a long way in enforcing the Right to Education Act, 2009 which mandates free and compulsory education of all children in the age group of 6-14 years.
"Because of the inherent contradiction in the existing Child Labour Act which allowed employing children under 14 year in non hazardous occupation, it was getting difficult to enforce the RTE Act. That's why the the ministry proposed the changes to link it with the age of compulsory education," said an official.
The move while making the labour laws more children friendly will also bring it line with International Labour Organization (ILO) norms.
The ILO’s convention of child labour seeks to provide minimum age of employment and says that no children below the age of 14 should be employed.
Hindustan Times was the first to report on May 1, 2012 the proposed amendments to the child labour act being considered by the labour ministry.