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This article is written by Shristi Suman, a second-year student of Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad and Nimisha Dublish of the Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies, GGSIPU, Delhi. In this article, several provisions of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 have been discussed.

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The term “child” is considered equivalent to the universe for parents. Children are the source through which humanity exists. They are the most prone category to exploitation and abuse (both physical and mental). A child is deprived of the basic needs and facilities of education and health, which are significant for the growth and development of a child. Child labour has been in practice since ancient times and was considered normal. The Indian Constitution lays emphasis on the fact that no child below the age of 14 is allowed to work in any mine or factory as per Article 39. A child shouldn’t be engaged in any sort of dangerous employment. But still, for many years, child labour has remained the biggest problem in the path of social development. In present times, child labour is the most crucial and detestable form of violation of a child’s rights. The exploitation of the rights of children is not a recent issue but has now gained momentum with the growth of human rights. Many international organisations like the International Labour Organisation (ILO), UNICEF, etc. are working dedicatedly to protect the interests of children and facilitate them with basic amenities like education. Article 21A deals with compulsory education for children. The Government of India had promulgated the legislation of The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 to regulate provisions related to child labour practices in India. The Government made substantial changes in the provisions of the Act in the year 2016 and from thereon a complete prohibition has been imposed on the employment of children who are below the age of 14 years. Many provisions have been made under the Act regarding the employment for the children who are above the age of 14 years. 

The Declaration of the Rights of Child, 1959

Declaration of the Rights of the Child, 1959 was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. The rights of the children were defined for the first time by the Declaration of the Rights of Child, 1959. The Declaration was drafted by Eglantyne Jebb and is also known as the Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child. The Declaration is a document that consists of the rights of children. It was first adopted in 1924 by the League of Nations and then in 1959 by the United Nations. The Declaration includes the following rights:

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  • The child must be provided all those means which are essential for their normal development.
  • If a child is found to be hungry or sick then the child must be fed and nursed.
  • If a child is backward or delinquent then the child must be helped and recovered.
  • In case the child is an orphan or abandoned then shelter should be provided to the child.
  • In times of distress, relief must be provided to children first.
  • The children must be protected from every kind of exploitation when they are put in a position to earn a livelihood.
  • The children must be made conscious of the fact that the talent they possess should be devoted to the service of their fellow men.

This document was endorsed by the League of Nations General Assembly in 1924 as the World Child Welfare Charter. It was reaffirmed in 1934 by the League of Nations General Assembly.

The International Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989

The International Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989 is a human rights treaty that includes the rights of children which are related to civil, political, social, health and cultural rights. A child is defined by the Convention as a human being who is under the age of eighteen years unless the law applicable to the child specifies a different age clause for the age of majority.

The Nations which ratified the Convention are bound to follow it under international law and compliance of the same is checked by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. The Nations that have ratified the Convention are required to report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. The Committee checks on their advancement in the implementation of the Convention for providing rights to children in their respective Nations.

The Convention works for the basic needs and rights of children in order to protect their interests. A child has a right to life which includes the right to identity, and the right to be raised by both parents even in case they are separated. The Convention works towards preserving such rights of children by putting an obligation on parents to perform all their responsibilities towards their child as parents. The Convention protects children from any kind of exploitation and excessive interference.

The disputes which involve a child have to be tried separately with care and the child’s viewpoint has to be heard in such cases. Courts are not allowed to sentence a child with capital punishment. It is an obligation of Nations to ensure that no child is sentenced with cruel or degrading forms of punishment. 

Rights of Child and the Indian Constitution

According to the Indian Constitution, the rights are ensured to the citizens of the country. The children are also given rights under the Constitution as they are considered citizens of the country. Considering their special status, special provisions are made for children under the Constitution. The Government can make special provisions for the protection of the rights of children. 

The leading amendment made for the protection of the rights of children is the 86th Constitutional Amendment i.e. Right to Education. Right to Education was made a Fundamental Right in order to protect the basic right of children to receive an education. 86th amendment guarantees the following:

  • The right to free elementary education that was made compulsory under Article 21 A of the Indian Constitution.
  • Right to protection till the age of fourteen years from any kind of hazardous employment which is provided under Article 24 of the Indian Constitution.
  • Article 39(e) of the Constitution protects children from any kind of abuse or forced employment which is not suitable for their age and ability.
  • The children are provided with equal opportunities, facilities, freedom, dignity, and protection under Article 39 (f) of the Indian Constitution.
  • Article 45 of the Constitution ensures early childhood care and education to the children until the age of 6 years.

Besides the special provisions which are made under the Constitution, the children also have equal rights as any other adult citizen of the country. 

Prohibition of Employment of Children in certain occupations and processes

Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 aims to eradicate any kind of child abuse in the form of employment and prohibit the engagement of children in any kind of hazardous employment, who have not completed 14 years of age. The Act prohibits the employment of children in certain occupations and processes. The occupations which are prohibited are mentioned in the Act under the Schedule in Part A. The prohibited occupations for children under 14 years are:

  • Occupations that are related to the transport of passengers, goods or mails by railway;
  • Cinder picking, clearing of an ash pit or building operation in the railway premises;
  • Working in a catering establishment which is situated at a railway station and if it involves moving from one platform to another or from one train to another or going into or out of a moving train;
  • The occupation which involves work related to the construction of a railway station or any other work where such work is done in close proximity to or between the railway lines;
  • Any occupation within the limits of any port;
  • Work which involves the selling of crackers and fireworks in shops having a temporary license;
  • Working in Slaughterhouses.

Prohibited processes for children under the age of 14 years are mentioned under the Schedule in Part B. They are as follows:

  • The process involving the making of Bidi;
  • The process which involves carpet-weaving;
  • Manufacturing cement or bagging of cement;
  • The processes such as Cloth printing, dyeing, and weaving;
  • The processes that involve the manufacturing of matches, explosives, and fireworks;
  • Mica-cutting and splitting;
  • Any manufacturing process such as shellac manufacture, soap manufacture, tanning;
  • The process of wool-cleaning;
  • Work that is related to the building and construction industry;
  • Manufacture of slate pencils;
  • Manufacture of products from agate;
  • Manufacturing processes in which toxic metals and substances such as lead, mercury, manganese, chromium, cadmium, benzene, pesticides and asbestos are used;
  • Cashew and Cashew Nut descaling and processing;
  • Soldering processes in electronic industries.

The Act in total prohibits approximately 13 occupations and 51 processes for the employment of children. Article 24 of the Indian Constitution includes the provision for the prohibition of employment of children in factories. The Act also lays down certain guidelines for employers, which is to be followed in case the employee is a child of age less than 14 years. According to the Act, the employer cannot make a child employee work between 7 p.m. and 8 a.m. and no overtime is allowed for them. It is not allowed for an employer to make a child work for more than 3 hours without an interval of at least one hour and in total, an employer should not make a child work for more than six hours a day. Adequate provisions must be made by the employer for the health and safety of the child employees. Basic facilities such as drinking water, toilets, disposal of waste, ventilation, etc must be provided by the employer. The employer needs to notify the Factory Inspector if in case he employs a child for employment. Production of age certificate of the child employee is also needed according to the rules of the Act.

Power to amend the Schedule

The Central Government has the power to amend the Schedule after giving notification in the Official Gazette. The notification for such amendment must be given in advance of not less than three months. The notice can be given by notification to add any occupation in the schedule or any process to the schedule. After such notice is provided to Official Gazette to add any occupation or process, it is deemed to be amended accordingly.

Child Labour Technical Advisory Committee

The Central Government may, if it thinks it to be necessary can constitute an advisory committee i.e. the Child Labour Technical Advisory Committee by giving notification about it in the Official Gazette. It is the duty of the Committee to advise the Central Government if there’s a need to add occupations or processes to the Schedule. The Central Government appoints the members of the Committee but the Committee should not exceed more than 10 members. The Committee shall also consist of a Chairman. There isn’t any limitation on the number of meetings Committee shall have. The Committee shall meet whenever they feel necessary and the meetings shall be regulated according to the procedure which shall be decided by them.

The Committee may itself constitute one or more sub-committees if they feel a need to do so. 

The Chairman and other members of the Committee are entitled to an allowance.

Fall of child labour in previous years

From 2006 to 2014

The schemes were launched by the Government to curtail the issue of child labour. MNREGA, Mid-day meal, Right to Education, etc. were brought into force with stricter norms and facilities were made available to every child. These schemes helped children to study and acted as an incentive for the parents as well, to make them understand how important education is. The NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisations) came into the picture to spread awareness and campaigns like ‘save the children’ and ‘stop child labour’ helped to mainstream the labourers into schools.

2015 onwards

The campaigns and awareness that started in 2012 gave more optimistic signs. In the year 2015, there was a significant decrease of 59% in child labourers. Between the years 2001 and 2011, there was a significant drop from 1.35 crores to 77.1 lakhs in child labour cases. There were several rescue missions for saving the children from labouring in mines and factories. The team saved around 1650 child labourers in the year 2014-15.

2019 onwards

The total child population between the age groups of 5- 14 years in India is 259.6 million. The child population working as marginal workers constitutes 3.9% of the total child population, i.e., 10.1 million. The data further reveals that more than 42.7 million children are not in school. In the year 2019, around 10,826 cases were reported of violations of the Child Labour Act for the previous 4 years. However, only 56% of cases passed through the stage of prosecution. In the years 2015 and 2018, only 25% of cases were convicted for the violation of the Child Labour Act. 

Strategies and laws adopted after the rise in child labour

Despite having legislative norms and a Constitution (fundamental rights), India has many cases of child labour. Every 4th child is child labour between the ages of 5-14 years of age and there is at least 1 child in each 3rd family who is again child labour, as per the Labour Ministry’s report

The situation was really severe, but this doesn’t mean that the Indian government hasn’t taken any steps. For a decade, the government has continuously been working on it and has passed various laws to prevent child labour. A few of them are as follows-

  • The Factories Act 1948– The child below 15 years of age is not allowed to work in factories.
  • The Minimum Wages Act 1948– The person who has not completed the age of 14 is termed a child and hence is prohibited from working as labour. 
  • The Plantation Labour Act 1951– The Act mentions the age restriction on labour. Hence, preventing child labour.
  • The Mines Act 1952– As per the Constitution, the Mines Act has put a bar on the age limit. The Act doesn’t allow children less than 14 years to work.
  • The Child Labour Act 1986– The Act has especially be made to protect the rights and stop the exploitation of children in work industries.
  • The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009– The Act emphasises the rights and needs of children with respect to education. Free and compulsory education is made mandatory for children of a certain age. Hence, it helps in the decrease of child labour.
  • India has participated in the following events

ILO Abolition of Forced Labour Convention( No. 105)

World Declaration on the Survival

ILO Forced Labour Convention(No. 29)

Development and Protection of Children

To propose actions and address the issue of child labourers, India formed its first board to resolve the matter of child labour in the country. The board was named Gurupadswamy in 1979. The duty of the board was to examine the troubles and issues of child labour in the industries. The board believed that the issue could not be removed in its entirety. So, it would be impractical on the part of the board to think that they can vanish the issue. So the board took a realistic approach to reduce the problem of child labour. The board found a way to prohibit child labour in unsafe areas. On the recommendations of the board, the team implemented and proposed the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986.

Girl child labour

The contribution of girl child labour doesn’t contribute to the majority of child labour but it is a significant part of the number. The world doesn’t see household work as a job or labour. A girl is expected to do  household work, which is considered to be work that every girl should know how to do. In many areas, a girl child is deprived of education and health facilities and is forced to do household work. The parents of the girl child don’t seem to be investing in her education because they believe that she will be married one day. Many times, the girl child is made to do work in other houses to earn money for the family. Since the girl child lacks education and required literacy, she is made to do inexpert jobs at low rates. The girl child ends up growing into a woman who is broken and doesn’t see her work to be of economic benefit and undervalues herself. 

A report issued by the Andhra Pradesh Rights Advocacy Foundation (AP CRAF) showed worldwide data of around 145 million children being involved in child labour. Out of this data, there was a significant contribution of girl child labour. If we break down this data, then we can see that in the first class, 39% of child labour is girls. 93 million children are between the ages of 5- 14 years. In the second class of children between the ages of 14- 18 years, there are around 69.2 million, of which 42% are girls. 

The category of girl child labour includes the following jobs-

  • Home-based work
  • Non-economic activities that are below the eyes of the law
  • Long working hours
  • Less pay
  • Poor working conditions
  • No skills arrangement
  • Physical cruelty
  • Sexual nuisance 

The girl child ratio in rural and urban areas is of 4:1 i.e. 80% of girl child labour resides in rural areas and 20% in urban areas. A girl child in rural areas is usually made to work in agricultural and household activities; whereas, in the urban sector, the girl child labourer is pushed into informal and unorganised places, which include factories and cottage industries. So, in general, a girl child labourer works in the following sectors and conditions-

  • Domestic Service– 1. wherein the girl child is subject to physical and sexual abuse; wherein the girl child is made to do work for long working hours and is not given even sick leave and proper food
  • Agricultural Area– wherein the girl child does extensive labour work, which is not good for a growing adolescent girl’s health and is exposed to harmful chemicals and hazardous types of machinery
  • Streets of Urban cities– wherein girls are made to do jobs like rag picking, begging, vendors, and even as sex workers
  • Home of rich people– wherein the girl child is subject to taking care of the babies and  doing household chores like cleaning, washing clothes, and preparing food. This kind of labour is usually hidden and doesn’t come into the picture so easily. 
  • Bonded labourers and export industries– wherein the girl child is subject to outright slavery

Regulation of Conditions of Work of Children

There are certain regulations provided under the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 which the employer needs to follow while employing a child in the establishment. Proper work conditions are to be provided by the employer.

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Application of Part

The provisions of this Part of the Act shall apply to an establishment or any class of establishments in which the occupations or processes which are referred to in Section 3 are not being carried on.

Hours and period of work

As per the Act, no child employee shall be allowed to work in any establishment in excess of the number of hours that have been decided on and prescribed for such an establishment or class of establishment. The number of hours shall be fixed by the establishment and the child employee must not be allowed to work for more than three hours without a break of one hour. The total number of hours of work for a child employee shall not exceed six hours. Six hours shall also include one hour of interval. According to the Act, the employer cannot make a child employee work between 7 p.m. and 8 a.m. and no employer must permit the child employee to work overtime. If a child has already worked in an establishment in a day, then such a child must not be permitted to work in another establishment on the same day.

Weekly Holidays

Every child who is employed in an establishment shall mandatorily be allowed a holiday each week. The holiday must be for a whole day. The day of the week must be decided on which it would be a holiday for the employees of the establishment and the notice regarding the same must be exhibited in a conspicuous place of the establishment. The notice should be of a permanent nature and should not be altered more than once in three months.

Notice to Inspector

Notice is needed to be sent to the Inspector within whose local limits the establishment is situated by the employer of such establishment if he employs a child employee or by the occupier of an establishment in which a child is employed or is permitted to work. The notice to be sent must be in writing. It must contain the following particulars:

  • the name of the establishment and place in which it is situated,
  • name of the person who manages the establishment, 
  • the postal address of the establishment,
  • the details such as the nature of occupation or process which is carried on in the establishment.

Every employer who permits a child to work in his establishment is needed to send a notice within 30 days to the Inspector within whose local limits the establishment is situated. Where a process is carried on by the occupier with the aid of Government or it receives assistance or recognition from Government for it then such establishment shall not be subject to the provisions of Section 7, 8, 9 of the Act.

Dispute as to age

In case if a question arises between an Inspector and an occupier on the age of the child who was permitted to work by the occupier in an establishment then the Inspector can prescribe a medical authority to decide on the age of such a child in case of absence of an age certificate.

Maintenance of register

The occupier shall maintain a register which shall include information with respect to children who are employed or permitted to work in his establishment. The register which is made available by the occupier for inspection at all times shall contain:

  • The  name and date of birth of the children who are employed by the occupier;
  • Number of hours and period of work for which the child employee is made to work;
  • The nature of employment and the work which the child employee is made to do;
  • Other particulars which may be prescribed.

Display of notice containing abstract of Sections 3 and 14

The notice containing abstract of Sections 3 and 14 of the Act shall be displayed by every occupier of the establishment in a conspicuous and accessible place of the establishment and in case the employer is a railway administration or a port authority then the notice must be displayed in a conspicuous and accessible place at every station or within the limits of a port as the case may be. The notice  must be written in a local language and in the English language.

Health and Safety

The Government may by giving a notification to the Official Gazette make rules for the health and safety of the children who are employed or permitted to work in an establishment or any class of establishments if the Government feels necessary to do so. According to the Act the rules which must be followed by the establishment for the purpose of safety and cleanliness are as follows:

  • The cleanliness of the place of work must be taken care of and it should be free from any kind of nuisance;
  • There must be a proper place for disposal of wastes and effluents;
  • Proper provisions for ventilation should be made and an adequate level of temperature should be maintained in the place of work;
  • Provisions should be made to reduce dust and fumes;
  • Artificial humidification shall be made;
  • Lighting must be proper in the place of work;
  • Drinking water must be provided;
  • Toilets must be made in the place of work for the employees;
  • Spittoons should be provided in order to keep the workplace clean;
  • The machines which are in the workplace should be fenced properly;
  • Children must not be allowed to work near machinery which is in motion;
  • Children must not be permitted to work on dangerous machines;
  • Children must be instructed, trained and supervised in relation to the employment of children on dangerous machines;
  • Device for cutting off power should be used;
  • Self-acting machines should be used in the workplace;
  • Easing of new machinery;
  • Proper floors should be made and proper means to access through stairs shall be made;
  • Pits, sumps, openings in floor shall be made;
  • Child employees shall not be permitted to lift excessive weights while working;
  • Protection for eyes must be provided;
  • Children must not exposed to explosives or inflammable dust, gas, etc;
  • In case fire is used in work, proper precautions must be taken;
  • Proper maintenance of buildings and machinery shall be taken.



When an employer employs a child or permits a child to work in contravention of the provisions of Section 3, the employer shall be liable for punishment with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine and the fine imposed shall not be less than rupees ten thousand and which may extend to rupees twenty thousand or with both.

Whoever is convicted of the said offence under Section 3 and repeats the same offence again in future then he shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months and can be extended to two years.

When an employer fails to give a notice as stated under Section 9 or fails to maintain a register comprising the details of child employees as required by Section 11 of the Act or if the employer makes any false entry in any such register, or fails to display a notice containing an abstract of Section 3, or if the employer fails to comply with or contravenes any other provisions of the Act or any of the rules which are made thereunder, he shall be punished with simple imprisonment which may extend to one month or with fine which may extend to ten thousand rupees or with both imprisonment and fine.

Modified application of certain laws in relation to penalties

In case a person is found guilty and is convicted of a contravention of any of the provisions which is mentioned in the Act, then he shall be liable to pay penalties as per sub-sections (1) and (2) of Section 14 of this Act.

The provisions which are referred to in Section 14(1) of the Act are as follows :

Procedure relating to offences

A police officer, Inspector or any person can file a complaint against an employer for the commission of an offence under the Act. A complaint can be filed under this Act in any court which has competent jurisdiction for it.

In cases where there is a question as to the age of a child employee, every certificate as to the age of a child that is granted by a prescribed medical authority shall be considered to be conclusive evidence as to the age of the child employee to whom it relates.

No court shall try a case of an offence under this Act which is inferior to that of a Metropolitan Magistrate or a Magistrate of the first class.

Appointment of Inspectors

The Government may appoint Inspectors for the purposes of securing compliance with the provisions of the Act and any Inspector who is appointed by the Government for such a purpose shall be deemed to be a public servant within the meaning of the Indian Penal Code.

Power to make rules

The Government may make rules subject to previous publication by giving notification in the Official Gazette. The rules may provide provisions on the following matters:

  • The term of office of the Chairman and members of the Committee, or the provisions related to the manner of filling casual vacancies, or provisions related to allowances payable to the Chairman and members of the Child Labour Technical Advisory Committee.
  • Number of hours for which a child may be required or permitted to work under Section 7 (1) of the Act.
  • Rules related to grant of certificate when the question arises as to that of the child employee. A charge may be made for the certificate by the Government for issuing such a certificate. No charges must be made for the issue of a certificate if the application for such a certificate is accompanied by evidence of the age of the child.
  • Rules related to the particulars of the register which is to be maintained by the occupier who permits a child to work according to Section 11 of the Act.

Rules and notifications to be laid before the Parliament or State legislature

Every rule which is made by the Government under this Act and every notification which is issued under Section 4, shall be laid before each House of Parliament as soon as possible. The rules and notifications must be laid before the Houses of Parliament while they are in session for a period of 30 days. It may be comprised in one session or in two or more successive sessions. If both houses agree jointly on a modification that is to be made in the rule or notification, then such notification or rule can be made or issued only when such a modification is made otherwise, the rule or notification cannot be made at all. The rules made by the Government under this Act shall come into practice as soon as it is made.

Certain provisions of law not barred

Subject to the provisions which are mentioned in Section 15 of the Act, the provisions of this Act and the Rules made by the Government under this Act shall be in addition to and not in derogation of the existing provisions of the Factories Act, 1948 (63 of 1948), the Plantations Labour Act, 1951 (69 of 1951) and the Mines Act, 1952 (35 of 1952).

Power to remove difficulties

In case, if any difficulty arises in giving effect to the provisions of the Act, then the Government may make such provisions which are not inconsistent by order published in the Official Gazette, make such provisions not inconsistent with the provisions of this Act by an order which shall be published in the Official Gazette. The order which shall be published shall not be made after the expiry of a period of three years from the date on which the Act received the assent of the President. Every order that is made under section 21 of this Act shall be laid before the Houses of Parliament as soon as it may be possible.

Repeal and Savings

The Employment of Children Act, 1938 was repealed by the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986. Notwithstanding such repeal, anything that is done or any action that has been taken or claimed to have been done under the Act which has been repealed, then, in so far as the provisions of the repealed Act is not inconsistent with the provisions of this Act shall be deemed to have been done or taken under the corresponding provisions of the present Act.

Amendment of Act 11 of 1948

Through the Amendment of Act 11 of 1948, the word ‘adolescent’, ‘adult’, ‘child’ was defined in Section 2 of the Minimum Wages Act, 1948. According to the Amendment, ‘adolescent’ refers to a person who has completed 14 years of age but did not complete 18 years of age. ‘Adult’ refers to a person who has completed 18 years of age. ‘Child’ refers to a person who has not completed 14 years of age.

Amendment of Act 69 of 1951

Amendment of Act 69 of 1951 was made in Section 2, Section 24 and Section 26 of the Plantations Labour Act, 1951. In Section 2 the word ‘fifteenth’ was substituted with the word ‘fourteenth’. Section 24 and Section 26 of the Act were omitted. The words ‘who has completed his twelfth year’ in Section 26 of the Act were omitted.

Amendment of Act 44 of 1958

Through the Amendment of Act 44 of 1958, the word ‘fifteen’ was substituted with the word ‘fourteen’ in Section 109 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958.

Amendment of Act 27 of 1961

Amendment of Act 27 of 1961 was made in Section 2 of the Motor Transport Workers Act, 1961. The word ‘fifteenth’ was substituted with the word ‘fourteenth’.

Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulations) Amendment Act, 2016

The Act was amended in the year 2016 and some new provisions were brought in. As per the amendment, there will be stricter punishments for employers who violate the Act and its guidelines. The offence is cognisable if an employer employs any child in contravention of the Act. The amendment covered the 18 occupations along with 65 processes of the 1986 Act. 

The punishments and imprisonment tenure were also amended and made stricter.

S. No. Penalties CLA, 1986 CLA, 2016
1. Imprisonment  Minimum- 3 Months

Maximum- 1 Year

Minimum- 6 Months

Maximum- 2 Years

2. Fine Minimum- 10,000

Maximum- 20,000

Minimum- 20,000

Maximum- 50,000

3. Offence if repeated Minimum- 6 Months

Maximum- 2 Years

Minimum- 1 Year

Maximum- 3 Years

The amendment completely prohibits the employment of children below 14 years of age. Only those who have their own family business can work, given their education and health are not hampered. The Act also creates a new segment of adolescents for children between the age group 14- 18 years of age and prohibits them from being employed in hazardous activities and occupations.

After consultation and discussions with the stakeholders, the government again amended some provisions in 2017. The provisions were added under the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Rules. To protect the interests of children and adolescents, a broad framework was made for the prevention and prohibition of children from labour. More clarity was given with respect to the family provision that was added by the amendment of 2016. To ensure the effective and efficient implementation of plans and policies, a set of duties and responsibilities for the agencies were added to the Act.

An analysis of the new amendments has shown that the list of 83 prohibited activities has now been cut down to only mining, explosives, and the occupations mentioned under the Factory Act, 1948. This clearly acts as a loophole for the employers who conduct chemical mixing units, cotton farms, battery recycling units, and brick units. As per Section 4 of the Child Labour Act, 2016, the government can, at its own will, remove any of the listed hazardous activities. 

The main issue that was put upon by the critics was the family business that allows a child to work under Section 3(5) of the Act. The clause doesn’t talk about the working hours. It says that the child may work after school hours, but this can be misused against the child. The child who comes home fully tired and is then sent to work, his health would be seriously affected by this. 

The Act somewhere is harmful and reverses the whole effort that has been put into making the laws for child labour. The UNICEF guidelines for child labour prohibit any child between the ages of 5- 11 years from doing economic activity or domestic work for at least 28 hours a week, which is considered as labour. India is a signatory to this convention by UNICEF. So the Act clearly contradicts the convention. 

The Rajya Sabha passed the bill to amend the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986. The Bill was passed on 19 July 2016. The amendments were made to make sure that the education of children between the ages of 6- 14 years is not compromised at any cost. The amendment was made to bring the old Act in line with the Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (“Right to Education Act”). 

Significant features of the Amendment Act 2016 are as follows-

  1. Definition of the term “child”– The definition of the term “child” was amended in order to bring it in sync with the Education Act. The Act defines a child as an individual who has not reached the age of 14 years. However, this definition was different from the definition given under the Factories Act, 1948.
  2. New definition of “adolescent”– The amendment act introduced a new term “adolescent”, the previous act didnt talked about this term. The term was defined as an individual who has completed 14 years of age but is below the age of 18. In simpler words, children between the age group of 14-18 years were categorised as adolescents. The definition of adolescent in the Factories Act is slightly different than this.
  3. Ban on child labour– An entire ban on the child labour has been imposed except of the following two case-
  • Children are allowed to assist in the family enterprise given that their work is done after school hours or during the vacation period. Also, the activity should not involve hazardous processes.
  • Children are allowed to advertise in audio visual businesses as long as their education and health are not compromised.

4. Cognizable Offence– The child labour is made a cognizable offence. The investigations into the matter could commence without a writ, and arrests can be made without a warrant.

5. Punishments– The punishments of the employers have been increased, whereas guardian’s punishments have been relaxed.

The amendments have been made in the long title and short title of the act. Substitutions were made in Section 3 of the Act. Section 3A was recently inserted into the Act. Significant amendments were made to Sections 14 and 18 of the Act along with the substitution of a new schedule. 

Case Laws 

Court On Its Own Motion v. The State of Jharkhand(2016)

In this case, the petitioner complained about the issue of child labour in the state. The petitioner addressed the issue and contended that the state has not disclosed anything about how it is going to cope with the situation of child labour in the state. The high court in return had directed the state to issue a report that tells how many schemes and what steps are taken by the government.

Jayakumar Nat v. State of NCT of Delhi(2015)

In this case, the Delhi High Court put emphasis on the issue of child labour rehabilitation. The Court has asked the government of Delhi to come up with schemes and form policies for proper rehabilitation of the rescued child labourers. The Court has further added that the state shall provide the children’s parents with the economic help that is required and not force the children to work as child labourers again to meet the economic needs of the family. 

Roshan Gupta v. The State of Bihar(2012)

In this case, the petitioner was imposed a fine of Rs. 20,000 and claims that he wasn’t given a chance to explain the circumstances under which the child was working in his shop. The Court imposed a fine on him on the basis that he had employed child labour in his shop, which was against the Child Labour Act. The writ petition was disposed off with the punishments and court orders.

Bachpan Bachao v. Union of India(2010)

In this case, the Delhi High Court decided the duties and responsibilities of the committees that have been formed for the protection of the interests of the children. The Commissions were directed to hear the matters related to the abusive workinh environment wherein the child faces physical abuse as well as mental for the age group of 14- 18 years. The commissions shall also look into the absence of the basic requirement of medical care and food requirements. The bench directed these commissions to determine their objectives and plan of action within 30 days of this judgment. 

Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India(1995)

In this case, a Public Interest Litigation(PIL) was filed to protect the interests of children below the age of 14 years. It was alleged that these children were made to work in the carpet industry as child labourers. The reports of the commissions also showed that a high number of children below the age of 14 were employed in the industry of Uttar Pradesh. Most of these children were the SCs and STs of Bihar. The Court directed the State to provide the socio economic justice to these children and provide proper opportunities for their personality development. 

TMA Pai Foundation v. Union of India(2002)

In this case, the Court held that it is the duty of the parents and guardians to provide the children with the opportunities for free education. The parliament enacted the Act for free and compulsory education in the year 2009 in accordance with this judgment.

Child labour during COVID-19

In the past two decades, India has seen a significant decrease in  child labour. However, the COVID-19 pandemic brought back the fear of an increase in child labour again. The International Labour Organisation (ILO), along with the United Nations Children’s Fund, gave a joint report which showed that a rise of around 1% in poverty leads to a rise of 0.7% in child labour. As per the International Labour Organisation (ILO), there is an expectation that 60 million people will fall into the category of poverty, which will directly affect the child labour ratio. Because whenever a family gets below the poverty line, they are forced to send every capable family member out to earn money.  

In March 2020, there were 2473 interventions related to child labour. The numbers came down to 446 in April but rose to 734 in May. The number of cases didn’t show the exact number of child labour. However, the dip might reflect the disruption of the normal reporting processes and investigation of the child labour cases caused due to the pandemic. There were 3653 interventions for child labour across the country, as reported on the child helpline number. The further breakdown of this data was into-

  • Begging- 35%
  • Hazardous activities- 21%
  • Restaurants- 14%
  • Domestic worker- 10%
  • Family Units- 8%
  • Bonded labourers- 4%

On 29 August 2020, the District Task Force of Ludhiana rescued 13 child labourers from two factories in Punjab.


The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 prohibits children from working in hazardous employment. The Act provides a minimum age limit for employment as 14 years. The provision of the Act has helped in reducing the rate of child employment in India. It has reduced various hazardous risks to which child employees are exposed at the workplace as well as the exploitation by laying down the provisions for maximum number of hours or period of work and various other related issues. The Act has played an important role in reducing hazardous employment for children in India. If it is found that the employer is employing a child in contravention of the provisions of the Act then, such employer will be liable for punishment which includes imprisonment or fine or both. Although the Act has reduced the number of child labors, this evil is still lingering in our society due to the socio-economic issues i.e. poverty and illiteracy and for overcoming the evil of child labor, collective responsibility has to be taken up by the society at large as Justice Subba Rao, the former Chief Justice of India rightly said that; “Social justice must start with the child. Until and unless a tender plant is properly tended and nourished, it has a small chance of growing into a strong and useful tree. So, the first preference in the plate of justice should be stated to the well-being of children.”


1. What could be the best way to prevent the issue of child labour?

Making more stringent laws, spreading awareness, discouraging people from employing children for domestic work, supporting NGOs working towards this and sending more children to school could be the best ways to prevent child labour.

2. What is the largest cause of child labour?

Poverty is the major cause of child labour in both urban and rural areas because when the family goes into poverty, the financial resources decrease. To earn money and fulfil the needs of the family, the children are forced into child labour.

3. Is taking the help of children in domestic work considered child labour?

Yes, as per the International Labour Organisation (ILO), keeping children as domestic help contributes to child labour. One should not keep children for domestic help purposes.

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