While prohibiting employment of children below the age of 14, the Centre decided Wednesday to let them work in family enterprises and in the audio-visual entertainment industry, except the circus, provided their school education is not affected.
The government justified the exceptions to strike “a balance between the need for education for a child and reality of the socio-economic condition and social fabric in the country”.
Clearing to move amendments to the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2012 — it will have to be cleared by Parliament — the Cabinet decided to prohibit employment of children below the age of 14 in all occupations and processes, linking the age of prohibition of employment to age under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009.
But it made two exceptions. First, “where the child helps his family or family enterprises, which is other than any hazardous occupation… after his school hours or during vacations”; and second, “where the child works as an artist in an audio-visual entertainment industry, including advertisement, films, TV serials or any such other entertainment or sports activities except the circus”.
These exceptions are subject to conditions and safety measures, as may be prescribed, and provided that such work does not affect the child’s school education, the government said.
The government also proposed stricter punishment to employers violating the Act. Parents and guardians will not be penalised for the first offence but, for a second offence, they would be fined up to Rs 20,000. This is a change from the earlier position where parents or guardians were liable to get the same punishment as employers for permitting a child to work in contravention of the Act.
To create a deterrent, the offence of employing any child or adolescent by an employer has been made cognizable.
The Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act (CLPR Act) 1986 prohibits employment of a child in 18 occupations and 65 processes and regulates conditions of working of children in other occupations. While considering total prohibition on the employment of child, the Cabinet factored the “country’s social fabric and socio-economic condition”.
For employers, the first offence of employing any child or adolescent would attract imprisonment between six months to two years or and a fine ranging between Rs 20,000 and 50,000, or both. The earlier penalty was imprisonment between three months to one year or a fine ranging between Rs 10,000 and 20,000, or both. In case of a second offence, the minimum imprisonment would be one year which may extend to three years. Earlier, this penalty was imprisonment between six months to two years.