A seemingly innocuous Right to Information (RTI) query has forced the Delhi Police to rein in employees who may be encouraging child labour.
Issued by its Special Protection Unit (Women & Children) or the SPUW&C, a new notification has instituted physical checks to ensure that no police officer employs any person aged below 14 years for any task either at a police station or his/her residence.
"The Central Government's Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act prohibits the employment of persons younger than 14 years across the country with employers liable to be penalised in accordance with law. Why should police officers be treated differently?" asked a Delhi Police officer.
This means is that the next time you are served tea by a child, or see a young teenager going about household chores in a police colony, a simple complaint against the child's identified employer(s) -- irrespective of his/her rank -- can land them in serious trouble.
The penal provisions of employing children below the age of 14 attract a fine of up to R 20,000 or imprisonment up to one year or both.
Sources said the notification came after the Delhi Police received an RTI query about the number of children employed as helps at police stations and by police officers at their residence in early October.
As per procedure, a copy of the same RTI query had been dispatched the SPU (W&C), one of the Delhi Police's special units mandated with the self-explanatory task of ensuring the protection of women's and children's rights, which took it rather seriously.
"So, on October 8, the police headquarters was directed to circulate the notification prohibiting all officers from employing children below the age of 14 years. Random checks will be conducted to identify and penalise those disobeying the notification," the officer added.