Case BriefsHigh Courts

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]

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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