By Nishita Makkar


“Children are the future pillars of a nation”, this quote is very commonly used. The reason behind this is to secure the nation’s future in best and skilled hands. This implies to protect them, educate them and nurture them properly.

But what about those working as rag pickers, washing utensils on some shop, sexually abused somewhere. This Child Labour is a stigma on our society and the nation.

Despite of every effort made, still children in India can be watched working on the street’s day and night instead of going school, getting education and preparing for their career.

In current scenario of Covid-19 pandemic[1] when schools are closed and parents are not able to find jobs for living, has undone all the efforts made to eliminate Child Labour.

According to UNICEF[2], more than 1.5 billion children missed out their schooling due to Covid-19 restrictions. This has shattered the labour market across the world.

Thus, this article talks about the concept of child labour.

What are the reasons of Child labour?

The most common reason for children to involve in Child Labour is the perspective of the families, community and society who seems it “normal” for a child to work. Beside this lack of good conditions, opportunities to grant education, natural disasters, migration etc. also are the root causes of the child labour.

Some of these are explained here:

  • Poverty

Poverty and bad living conditions are one of the major reasons for driving children in the workplace.

  • Lack of access to quality education

All the children are not able to get opportunity to get education. The reasons may be non-well-coming environment of the school all well as lack of affordability.

  • Natural disaster and climate change

The effects of natural disaster and climate change is one of the reasons that children of rural family have to work in the initial age.

  • Conflicts and mass migration

People displaced by war or riots have been vulnerable and to improve the living condition their children have to support them. This led to one of the worst forms of child labour.

Hence, these are some reasons children are indulged in labour in the age of getting education.

The Statistics in India

India accounts for the second highest number where child labour is concerned. The conditions of the children here are pathetic. It is a serious and extensive problem with many children under the age of 14 years are working in hazards factories.

According to the data from census 2011[3], the number of child laborer in India is 10.1 million of which 5.6 millions are boys and 4.5 millions are girls.

The situation of child labour in India is miserable roughly 160 million children were subjected to child labour at the beginning of 2020 and India contributes a large number in it. It is implies that nearly one-third of India population is below the mark of 18 years which states risk is high.

Indian children are facing major issues such as gender inequality, child marriage, malnutrition, child trafficking etc. But the main problem is non-awareness of the cause and legal remedy available.

What do the Indian Laws provide for Child Labour?

As we know the children are the biggest asset of the nation only when provide protection against the evils prevailing like child labour. This is the need of hour to have a developed and strong future. That’s why constitution as well as the government provides various legislations and laws that are indeed necessary for the children of the country.

These are as follows:

  • Article 21(A): Right to Education

This article provides that the state shall provide free and compulsory education to all the children of the age group of 6 to 14 years in such a manner as the State, by law, may determine.

“Mid-day meal” as a concept is also used to motivate the children as well as their parents to send them to school.

  • Article 24: Prohibition of Employment of Children in factories, etc.

Under this Article, no child below the age of “fourteen” years shall be employed in work in any factory or mine or engaged in any hazardous work.

  • Article 39: The State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing

This article exclaims that the health and strength of workers, men and women, and the tender age of children are not abused and the citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength.

  • Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986

As per going with the Article 24 the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 states a child as a person who has not completed their 14th year of age. This act aims particularly at the regulation of hours and the working conditions of child workers and to prohibit child workers from being employed in hazardous industries.

This act has undergone several amendments in the recent years.

  • Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act of 1976

As the name suggests, this act focuses on the eradication of bonded labour system prevailing within India that exploits the weaker section of the society including the children of that section.

Many such laws and acts are enforced to protect the childhood of humans and providing them better opportunities as well as healthy conditions. 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 of Rs. 20,000 and 50,000. Even after all these laws prevailing India is still a hub for child labour.

Case Laws

  • Labourers Working on Salal Hydro-Project Vs State of Jammu and Kashmir, 1984[4]

Article 24 applicable involving employment of a child below 14 years in hazardous work

It was held in this case that construction works are hazardous in nature and any sort of employment of a child below 14 years will be violation of Article 24 of Indian Constitution.

  • Vishal Jeet Vs Union of India, 1990[5]

Establishment of rehabilitation centers for children begging on the streets

The Apex Court issued the necessary directions to the government for establishment of rehabilitation centers for the children begging in streets and protective homes for those minor girls who were indulged in flesh trade.

  • M.C. Mehta Vs State of Tamil Nadu, 1997[6]

Landmark Judgment for eradicating child labour under Article 14

In this case, in regard with the constitutional perspective of the abolition of child labour and the employment of child below the age of 14 years in the notorious Sivakasi Match Industries.

Taking note of the cause for failure to implement the constitutional mandate, the Court declared the directions as feasible inevitable and reiterated that for the speedy implementation.

  • Bandhua Mukti Morcha Vs Union of India, 1997[7]

Evolving the principles and of policies for progressive elimination of child labour

In the following judgment, for the case of employment of children in Carpet Industry in the State of Uttar Pradesh, the Supreme Court directed the government to evolve the policies for progressive elimination of child labour and to provide:

    • Compulsory education for all children employed in factories, mine or any other industry, organized or unorganized labour with such timings s is convenient for getting compulsory education, also higher or vocational education;
    • Apart from education, periodical health checks-up;
    • Nutrient food etc.
  • People’s Union for Democratic Rights Vs Union of India,1982[8]

Construction work is considered as hazardous and must be prohibited under Article 24

The Supreme Court provided that building construction work was a hazardous employment where children below 14 years should not be employed, and the prohibition contained in Article 24 could be plainly and indubitably enforced against everyone, whether State or private individual.

  • Bandhua Mukti Morcha Vs Union of India, 1984[9]

The bonded labour was declared as a crude form Forced labour

The Apex court observed that failure of State to identify the bonded labourers, to release them from their bondage and to rehabilate them as envisaged by Bonded labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, violated Articles 21 and 23. The Court declared bonded labour to be prohibited by Article 23.

  • Zeeshan Vs District Education Officer, Kannur, 2008[10]

All children shall have the freedom to have primary education in a language of their choice

The Kerala High Court upheld the denial of admission to Standard V in a School of a child who was a citizen of Pakistan under Section 22(ii) of the Kerala Education Act, 1959.

  • B.S.G.S.S.T. Association Vs Bihar Education Service Association, 2013[11]

Primary and Secondary teachers ought to treat equally and honorably

Stating that in a country where there is so much illiteracy and where there are a large no. of first generation students, the Supreme said that the primary and secondary teachers should be given appropriate pay and promotional chances.

  • Shafeek S. Manager Vs State of Kerala, 2009[12]

Article 21-A also cannot be invoked to run schools for protecting their private interest

Article 21-A contains a duty of State to provide free and compulsory education. This Article cannot be invoked by the management of unrecognized schools for protecting their private interest and claiming right to run schools unauthorisedly.

  • Ng. Komon Vs State of Manipur, 2010[13]

Schools under state are mandatory in the villages

The Gauhati High Court directed the State Government to establish school in a village from where it was shifted to another village. A lot of problems were face by the children of that village.

  • Shikshan Prasaran Mandal, Pune Vs State of Maharashtra, 2010[14]

Imparting Education to Children is an Constitutional Obligation

The Bombay high Court stated that imparting education was a constitutional obligation of the State and the fundamental right of the students under Article 21-A and the State has to place on a high pedestal.

  • Society for un-Aided P. School of Rajasthan Vs Union of India, 2012[15]

Article 21-A read with Right to Education Act, 2009 could not be enforced on Unaided minority Schools

The Supreme Court said that Article 21-A empowered the State to provide by law free and compulsory education could be enforced against all the schools except the unaided minority schools.

  • Environment and consumer Protection Foundation Vs Delhi Administration, 2013[16]

Essential facilities to be provided in schools

The Supreme Court issued directions to stated to provide within 6 months toilet facilities for boys and girls, drinking water facilities, sufficient class rooms and staff etc. in all schools whether state owned or private.

  • Unni Krishnan Vs State of Andhra Pradesh, 1993[17]

Importance of Right to Education

In the following case, the Court observed that Right to Education is said to be concomitant to the Fundamental Rights enshrined in Part III shall remain beyond the reach of large majority of children which are illiterate.

  • Sheela Barse Vs Union of India, 1986[18]

The children employed under hazardous works should be released

In this case, the Supreme Court ordered to the State to release the children from their employment where they working under dangerous conditions and were exposed to chemical fumes and coal dust from working near furnaces in the glass industry.


In summary, we got to know that any person who is under the age of fourteen years and is doing any kind of hazardous work is said to be indulged in Child Labour, which is a non-cognizable criminal offence. Even punishments are there to be given to the employer.

But the main focus should be eradicating of the root causes of the evil. The circumstances or situations of person made to work him in such a young age.

A child whose persons are in debt would obviously have to work as bonded labour for returning the debt. This is mentality of the parents signing contracts which is absolutely wrong. No debt can be compensated by a person’s childhood in danger and risk of hazardous work. This kind of mental understanding is also needed to be transformed.

Though all the efforts made by the government the statistics had shown a lot of change but after the commencement of Covid-19 period, the trend has increased again.

The phase of economic-slow down has led innocents to go out for work in the recovery period. This can only be curbed with all of us working united for the cause.


  1. Kainat Sarfaraz, “Rights activists caution against child labour and trafficking during pandemic” available at: visited on July 24th, 2021)
  2. UNICEF, “Child labour rises to 160 million- first increase in two decades”( June 10th 2021)
  3. Government of India, “CENSUS DATA on Child Labour,2011” (Ministry of Labour and Employment)
  4. Labourers Working on Salal Hydro-Project Vs State of Jammu and Kashmir, 1984 AIR 177, 1983 SCR (2) 473
  5. Vishal Jeet Vs Union of India, (1990) INSC 176
  6. M.C. Mehta Vs State of Tamil Nadu, AIR (1997) SC 699
  7. Bandhua Mukti Morcha Vs Union of India, AIR 1997 SC 2218
  8. People’s Union for Democratic Rights Vs Union of India, AIR 1982 SC 1473
  9. Bandhua Mukti Morcha Vs Union of India, AIR 1984 SC 802
  10. Zeeshan Vs District Education Officer, Kannur, AIR 2008 Ker. 226
  11. B.S.G.S.S.T. Association Vs Bihar Education Service Association, AIR 2013 SC 487
  12. Shafeek S. Manager Vs State of Kerala, AIR 2009 (NOC) 2336 (Ker.)
  13. Ng Komon Vs State of Manipur, AIR 2010 Gau. 102
  14. Shikshak Prasaran Mandal, Pune Vs State of Maharashtra, AIR 2010 Bom. 39
  15. Society for Un-Aided P. School of Rajasthan Vs Union of India, AIR 2012 SC 3445
  16. Environment and Consumer Protection Foundation Vs Delhi Administration, AIR 2013 SC 1111
  17. Unni Krishnan Vs State of Andhra Pradesh, AIR 1993 SC 2178
  18. Sheela Barse and Others Vs Union of India, JT 1986 136

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