Laws Relating to Child Labour


Child labour is a practice of involving children in money-making task or business which is harmful for their mental and physical growth and development. In comparison to other developing countries in the world, India is suffering from the major issue of maximum number of child labourers (below the age of 14 years).

As suggested by the International Labour Organization, Child Labour can be defined as a work that prevents the children to live their childhood and develop their potential. It also affects their physical, mental and social development.It is also morally dangerous and interfere with regular studies and classes and thus, led to an inexperienced healthy childhood and lifestyle.

UNICEF defines child labour as a child between the age of 5 to 11 years engaged in activities such economic activity for one hour or domestic work for twenty-eight hours in a week, or a child between the age of  12 to 14 years engaged in economic activity for at least 12 hours or for 42 hours of domestic work per week.

India’s census 2001 office defines child labour as any activity performed by a child below the age of 17 years whether paid or unpaid, economically productive activity with or without compensation, work on farm or family enterprise, such activity can be either physical or mental or both.


In the late 18th century, Industrial Revolution led to rapid increase of labour, including child labour with long working hours in dangerous and fatal working conditions. Also the wages paid to children were 10%-20% of adult male working in the industry.

In 1919, International Labour Organization (ILO) was created and in the year 1920, All India Trade Union Congress was established to reform laws relating to labour in general and child labour in particular. Several Acts such as Factories Act,1922 (less than 15 years), Mines Act, 1923 ( between 12-13 years), The Indian Ports (Amendment) Acts, 1931 (minimum 12 years of age)  were passed to minimize the duration of child labour as in factories act, reduce the working hours of children to six and also to grant interval of half-hour to those who work more than five-and-half-hourand also requirement of medical certificate for regular examination to continue work at a particular place.

In the period between 1931 and 1949, more efforts were made and extensive reforms were recommended through a publication of Royal Commission for labour . Many other acts were passed such as Tea Districts Emigrant Labour Act, 1932 (not less than 16 years of age), theChildren (Pledging of Labour) Act, 1933 (prescribes penalty on person and guardian committing the practice of child labour), the Factories Act, 1934 (prohibits five hours work per day to children between 12-15 years of age and also imposed certain restrictions on children between 15-17 years of age).

The Britishintroduced legislation restricting the employment of children in India during pre-independent era but these laws were mainly confined to factories and mines. Although no uniform attempts were made by the British to prohibit child labour as such.

Concept: A general view to child labour

Child labour is a form of child exploitation and is a universal problem.This hurdle is basically in the developing countries, whenever there in transformation in market economy, a pressure is created to poor families to engage their children to work to contribute to family income. Many children are working in different segments of agricultural sector, leather industry, cottage industry, glass works and in case of girl Children, generally, they are working as a domestic servant in various houses suffering from mental and physical stress and also sexual abuse.

Inspite of significant achievements, India is still facing this social hurdle in the way to national development. Child labour is more prevalent in rural areas were children are involved in different traditional employment and also they help their families in fields, it is all due to unemployment, poverty and illiteracy.

Rodgers and Standing (1979) has classified different forms of child labour practiced in rural India. They are:

  • Domestic – It includes maid servant, domestic servants where female children has to bear the burden.
  • Non-Domestic – It includes grazing of animals, working on fields, working in different segments of agricultural sectors etc.
  • Bonded and wage child labour –It is a kind of forced or partly forced labour where the child or child’s parent is involved in any agreement whether oral or written, with the creditor. The child performs the work for repayment of the credit.

In urban areas, secondary sectors plays a predominant role to employ children in activities such as work in hotels, fireworks, glass, carpet weaving, automobile etc. Further children are also employed in unorganized sectors such asshops, pavement selling, dhabas, vendors, potters and in scavenging.

Another important sector in which most of the children are found employed is the manufacturing and processing unit and also work in transport and at the storage fields.

Consequences of child labour:

  1. Injuries like cuts, burn, fractures, tiredness, fears and nightmares.
  2. A girl child suffering from sexual abuse, rape, unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS.
  3. Physical abuse involving physical punishment, emotional maltreatment such as blaming, humiliation, bad remarks, rejections etc.
  4. Deprivation of family love and affection leading to loneliness and unhappiness.
  5. Lack of educational qualifications and higher skills due not attending the classes on regular basis.
  6. Also less wages and salaries as compared to adult workers for the same time span les them to depression.

Legal Provisions:

  • Constitutional provisions for child upliftment:
  • Article 21A (Right to education)
  • Article 24 (Prohibition of employment of children in factories, etc.)
  • Article 39 Clause (e)(Certain principles of policy to be followed by the State)
  • The Factories Act, 1948: It prohibits employment of children below the age of 14 years and give guidelines regarding employment of children aged between 15-18 years.
  • The Mines Act, 1952: It prohibits employment of children below the age of 18 years as mining is the known to be the most dangerous occupation and can take life of child workers if not handled properly.
  • Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986

A person who has not attained the age of 14 years is considered to be a child. This Act is aimed at regulating the working hours and working conditions of child workers and also to prohibit employment of child in hazardous industries.

Eight core conventions (also termed as fundamental or human rightsconventions) are as follows:

  • Forced Labour Convention (No. 29)
  • Abolition of Forced Labour Convention (No. 105)
  • Equal RemunerationConvention (No. 100)
  • Discrimination (Employment Occupation)Convention (No. 111)
  • Freedom of Association and Protection of Rights to Organised Convention(No. 87)
  • Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention (No. 98)
  • Minimum Age Convention (No. 138)
  • Worst forms for Child Labour Convention (No. 182)

The two core conventions i.e., 138 and 182 are directly related to child labour and has been ratified by India.

  • Convention No. 138 (Minimum Age): It has been adopted in the 58th session in June, 1973 by the International Labour Conference. As per this Convention minimum age for entry to any work or employment shall not be less than 18 years.
  • Convention No. 182 ( Worst Form of Child Labour): It has been adopted in the 87th session in June, 1999 at Geneva. The worst form of Child labour comprises of:
  • All forms of slavery and practices similar to slavery such as sale, trafficking, forced recruitments.
  • Offering a child for prostitution, pornographic performances forcefully.
  • Procuring a child for illicit activities such as production and trafficking of drugs.
  • Working in such circumstances which may be harmful for children physically, mentally or morally.
  • The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) of Children Act, 2000

It provides punishment to those who act in contravention to this act and makes employment of children in bondage and at hazardous places.

  • The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009: It mandates free and compulsory education to all children aged between 6 to 14 years.


Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016

It came into force w.e.f. 1-9-2016. It completely prohibits employment of children below the age of 14 years and also prohibits the employment of adolescent aged between 14 to 18 years in hazardous occupations.

Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Rules, 2017

This rule provide specific framework for prevention, prohibition, rescue and rehabilitation of child and adolescent workers and it also provide specific provisions incorporating duties and responsibilities of the agencies for enforcement of orders to ensure effective implementation of the provisions of the Act.

Case study:

M. C. Mehta v. State of Tamil Nadu[i]

The Supreme Court issued following guidelines:

A survey about the child labour within 6 months.

The Court identified nine industries where the work could be taken up namely –

  • The Match Industry in Sivasaki, Tamil Nadu;
  • The Diamond Polishing Industry in Surat, Gujarat;
  • The Precious Stone Polishing Industry in Jaipur, Rajasthan;
  • The Glass Industry, Ferozabad;
  • The Brass-ware Industry, Moradabad;
  • The Hand-made Carpet Industry in Mirzapur, Bhadohi;
  • The Lock-making Industry, Aligarh;
  • The Slate Industry in Manakapur, Andhra Pradesh; and
  • The Slate Industry in Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh for priority action.

The undertaken chosen for employment shall be one which is nearest to the place of residence of the family.

In case where no alternative employment is available, the parents will be provided with employment and paid income from interest of Rs. 25,000 which would cease if the child is not sent to education by parents.

On discontinuance of the employment his education could be ensured until they complete the age of 14 years and shall be free as per the provisions contained in Article 45 of the Indian Constitution.

Overall monitoring by the Ministry of Labour, Government of India would be beneficial and worthwhile for the collection of Funds.

The Secretary of the Ministry of Labour of the Union of India would apprise the Court within one year about the compliance of the directions of the Court in this regard.

The inspector shall have to verify whether the working hours of the child are not more than 4 to 6 hours a day and the child is receiving education for at least 2 hours a day.The employer shall bear the cost of education.

People’s Union for Democratic Rights v. Union of India[ii]

It was held that under Article 24 of the Constitution of India, no child below the age of 14 years can be employed in the construction work even if construction industry is not not mentioned under the Employment of Children Act, 1938.


The awareness regarding the disadvantages of the child labour should be provided to the people and strict implementation of the government policies and regulations should be made so as to remove this social evil from the society. Every parent and guardian should understand the importance of education and the need for their children to study for the proper growth and development of the physical and mental ability. Also, it is essential to shape the future of the nation.



Q1. Who is a Child under the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 ?

Answer: A person who has not completed the age of 14 years.

Q2. What are the two ILO conventions ratified by India?

Answer: Convention No. 138 and 182.

Q3. When and why All India Trade Union Congress was established?

Answer: It was established in 1920 to reform laws relating labour and child labour particularly.

Q4. Which section of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 defines the term ‘child’?

Answer: Section 2(ii)

Q5. As per the Act, the child should not be permitted to work between?

Answer:. 7PM – 8AM



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