All HC | Conviction for child labour reversed as age of alleged child labourers could not be proved as required by Child Labour Rules

Allahabad High Court: Rajeev Misra, J. while allowing the criminal revision set aside the conviction and sentence awarded to the revisionist passed by the CJM, Aligarh and affirmed by the Special Judge (EC Act)/Additional Sessions Judge, Aligarh.

In the Instant case, criminal revision order of 08-08-2001 passed by the CJM, Aligarh, under Section 14 of the Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 convicting the revisionist for three years imprisonment and fine of Rs 2000 was affirmed by Special Judge (EC Act)/ Additional Session Judge, Aligarh.

The complainant L.S. Gupta, Labour Enforcement Officer, Aligarh visited the premises of the accused/revisionist along with Pradeep Kumar, Senior Clerk and Girish Chandra, Junior Clerk, respectively, four children who were less than 14 years of age were found to be working in the said premises. The paper on which details of the children were noted were torn by the accused/revisionist and therefore, the details of the child workers could not be entered.

Counsel for the revisionist/accused, Hemendra Pratap Singh denied the engagement of child labour in his statement under Section 313 CrPC and further alleged that the prosecution witnesses (Labour Enforcement Officer and Senior Office Assistant in the Office of the Assistant Labour Commission, Aligarh) had demanded Rs 500 from the revisionist. The revisionist is in cloth business and to harass him, this complaint was filed against him and false criminal proceedings were initiated.

It was submitted by the Counsel of the revisionist that as per the provisions of Section 11 of the Act there was no such material collected by the complainant on the basis of which it could be proved that the accused/revisionist had employed child labourers in his commercial organization.

In case any child labourer was employed by the accused/revisionist it was the duty of the complainant to recover such child and rehabilitate him as per the mandate of Section 14(C) of Act. It was further submitted that in the absence of any material to show that the age of the alleged child labourers was below the prescribed minimum as per Rule 17 of the Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Rules, 1988 (the Rules) was not complied with. Thus, merely on the basis of hearsay evidence, the accused/revisionist has been convicted.

The Court after analyzing the material on record observed that except for the photocopy of the alleged inspection memo no other document was filed by the complainant before the court below. The mandatory provisions of Rule 17 of the Rules were not complied with to ascertain the age of the child labourers. Consequently, there was no material before the court below to assume that child labourers were employed in the commercial organization of the accused/revisionist. [Santosh Kolanki v. State of U.P., 2019 SCC OnLine All 2831, decided on 02-08-2019]

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