The familiar sight of children slogging at roadside eateries, vehicle workshops, scrap industries and power looms in Delhi would hopefully be a thing of the past.
From now on, it could prove too costly for their employers to engage them.
The employer may be fined Rs 20,000 immediately on a simple complaint and get three years’ in jail if found guilty of engaging child labour.
Delhi High Court on Wednesday ordered prompt recovery of the amount from any person found employing a child below 14 years for any job or any child aged between 14-18 for “hazardous jobs” listed under the Factories Act.
Till now, the labour department had to wait for the employer’s conviction to recover the fine. Henceforth, the employer will be booked by the police and not the labour department and it will be under the Juvenile Justice Act which prescribes a maximum punishment of three years’ imprisonment.
This is far more stringent than the liberal Child Labour Prohibition Act applied so far with a maximum jail term of one year, that too rarely awarded.
The court has also ordered formation of a police force to raid suspected premises. The amount recovered would be credited to the District Chila Labour Welfare Fund of the District to which the child originally belongs.
According to Bachpan Bachao Andolan, an NGO working to eradicate child labour, there are an estimated 3 lakh child labourers in Delhi. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights says the city’s child labour profile is of two types — out-of-school children living with their families and migrant children from other states who have left their families behind.
A bench of Chief Justice A P Shah and Justice Manmohan specified the tasks to be accomplished by Delhi Police, the labour department, the women and child welfare department, the education and health departments and the MCD to eradicate the menace. “Earlier, action plans could not be vigorously implemented and there was lack of coordination between different agencies of the Government of NCT of Delhi and other authorities,” said the court.
“The judgment ends the confusion over responsibilities of different authorities,” said Kailash Satyarthi of Bachpan Bachao Andolan. H S Phoolka, a lawyer fighting for the cause said: “A loud and clear message goes to the employers that they would face prosecution under the strictest laws and an immediate recovery of fine of Rs.20,000.”