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Explaining the law on Child Labour

A simple explainer providing a snapshot of the law related to Child Labour In India

Is it legal to employ children?

No, you cannot employ children under 14.

There are exceptions to this – children in family businesses are allowed to work after school and during vacations. Children acting in movies, advertisements and sports are similarly allowed to work.

It is lawful to children between 14 and 18, as long as the places are not dangerous (explained below). The term used in the law for children between 14 and 18 is ‘adolescents’.

Someone is employing children in my neighbourhood. What can I do?

If you have observed that the law is being violated by someone, you can file a complaint with the police or the Magistrate. You can also also bring it to the notice of local NGOs who work with children, and who can take further steps. A police officer or a child labour inspector under the law can also file a complaint.

The offence is cognizable, meaning that a police officer can make an arrest or state an investigation without a warrant in case someone is employing a child or adolescent in a hazardous job in violation of the law. Children who are rescued from situations in which they were being made to work in violation of this law must be rehabilitated under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.

What is the punishment for employing children in violation of the law?

Any person who employs a child below 14 or a child between 14 and 18 in a hazardous occupation or process can be punished with jail time of between six months and two years and/or fine between Rs. 20,000 and Rs. 50,000.

A person can be punished for all other violations (for example, with respect to maintenance of register, work hours, health and safety conditions) with jail time of up to one month and/ or a fine of up to Rs. 10,000. First time offences can be settled if the person pays a certain sum of money.

There are a number of other laws which also punish employment of children. However, prosecution for the crime of employing children and adolescents will be under the child labour law. The laws include the Factories Act, Mines Act, Merchant Shipping Act and the Motor Transport Workers Act.

Is it legal to make children work in the family business?

Yes, it is legal to make children (below 14) work in the family business. The business could belong to or be run by immediate family (mother, father, brother or sister) or extended family (father’s sister and brother, or mother’s sister and brother).

It is important that the family business does not involve dangerous substances or processes (the term in law is ‘hazardous’ occupation or process). The law tells us what jobs are considered hazardous. Mines, explosives and processes involved in the coal, power generation industries etc are included. For, the full list of hazardous occupations or processes, click here. However, parents or guardians of the children who make their child work in violation of the law can be punished with a fine of up to Rs. 10,000.

Even though it is lawful to use children in the family business, the child’s education must not be affected. She or he can only be made to do this after school hours or during vacation. However, this immunity does not apply if they make their child (who is under 14) work for commercial purposes or the child (between 14 and 18) work in a hazardous occupation or process. The law does give them a chance to correct their wrong – when they are caught doing this the first time, they can settle it.

Is it legal to let children act in movies or play sports as a profession?

Yes, it is legal. Children can act in movies and TV serials or be involved in sport activities and be paid for it. They could also do this as a hobby. The government has not yet come out with the full list of allowed entertainment and sporting activities under this exception. Also, the rules regarding the conditions of employment of such children have not yet come out. Again, it is important that the child’s education is not affected.

An exception to this exception is hiring children in a circus - that is not allowed and is illegal under the law.

What kind of jobs are children between 14 and 18 allowed to work in?

The law only tells us what kind of jobs they are not allowed to work in. Adolescents or children (between 14 and 18) are generally allowed to work except in:

  1. Hazardous occupations – Mines and inflammable substances or explosives (such as firework factories).
  2. Hazardous processes – The list of industries which use hazardous processes is provided under the  law - the Factories Act, 1948. They include coal, power generation, paper, fertilizer, iron and steel industries, asbestos, etc.
  3. The government can make additions or deletions to this list.

Source: Nyaaya

Related resources

  1. Acts and Rules related to Child and Women labour
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