Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: In a petition filed to quash the ongoing prosecution against the petitioner under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 against the petitioner, the Bench of B. Sudheendra Kumar, J., while observing that the prosecution failed to prove that the minor girl working in the petitioner’s house was under bondage or was doing forced labour, also dealt with the issue of employment of children in households and of exploitation of child employees with special emphasis on the interpretation of Sections 79, 75, 76 and 78 of the 2015 Act. It was held by the Court that, employment of a child in households is permissible to the extent that the child is not kept in bondage.

The petitioner had been accused under Sections 75 and 79 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 which deal with Punishment for Cruelty to Child and Exploitation of a Child Employee, respectively for allegedly engaging a minor girl as domestic help in his house. It was argued by the counsel of petitioner that there was no allegation that the minor victim girl was employed by the petitioner in bondage; therefore Section 79 of the 2015 Act is not attracted

It was observed by the Bench that in order to constitute an offence under Section 79, it must be looked whether the victim girl was employed by the petitioner in bondage. Since the term ‘bondage’ has not been defined in the Act, the Court had to rely on meanings provided for the term in various dictionaries. Also relying on other Central legislations and several International Conventions, the Court came to the conclusion that “engaging a child for the purpose of employment as such is not prohibited under Section 79 of the Act, if the engaging of the child for the employment is not by keeping the child in bondage.” It was further observed that the fundamental difference between ‘employment in bondage’ and ‘employment without any bondage’ is that a labourer does not have the liberty to leave the employment without the permission of the employer in the former; whereas, a labourer has the liberty to leave the employment without the permission of the employer in the latter. Though the victim had been employed as a house maid with the petitioner, it was established that she had not been kept in bondage; the petitioner had not withheld the earnings of the child or had used them for his purpose; and she had also not been physically or mentally harassed by anyone in the house. Therefore, further proceedings against the petitioner were quashed. [A. Nizamudhin v. Station House Officer, 2017 SCC OnLine Ker 7324, decided on 30.05.2017]

 

Amendments to existing lawsLegislation Updates

On 13.05.2015, the Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister, gave approval for moving official amendments to the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2012. The Official Amendments along with the Amendment Bill 2012 proposes to make the following salient amendments to the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986:-

1. Prohibition of employment of children below 14 years in all occupations and processes, except- a) where the child helps his family or family enterprises, which is other than any hazardous occupations or processes set forth in the Schedule, after his school hours or during vacations; b) where the child works as an artist in an audio-visual entertainment industry, including advertisement, films, television serials or any such other entertainment or sports activities except the circus, subject to such conditions and safety measures, as may be prescribed and provided that such work does not affect the school education of the child.

The proposed amendment has been made keeping in mind the country’s social fabric and socio-economic conditions.

2. Introduction of new definition of adolescent in the CLPR Act and prohibition of employment of adolescents (10 to 18 years of age) in hazardous occupations and processes, in order to protect adolescents from the employment not suitable to their age.

3. Stricter punishment for employers for violation of the Act has been proposed to act as a deterrent.

4. Offence of employing any child or adolescent in contravention of the Act by an employer has been made cognizable.

5. Taking a realistic view of the socio-economic conditions of the parents/guardians, there would be no punishment for violation of the provisions in case of a first offence by the parents/guardians, and in case of a second and subsequent offence, the penalty would be a fine which may extend to Rs.10,000.

6. Constitution of Child and Adolescent Labour Rehabilitation Fund for one or more districts for the rehabilitation of the child or adolescent rescued. Thus, the Act itself will provide for a fund to carry out rehabilitation activities.

 

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