Home juvenile justice latest judgements of supreme court/high courts MC MEHTA VS STATE OF TAMIL NADU – 1996



M.C. Mehta v State of Tamil Nadu and Others – Supreme Court of India delivered on 10 December, 1996 -Citation: (1996) 6 SCC 756

“Our Constitution makers, wise and sagacious as they were, had known that India of their vision would not be a reality if the children of the country are not nurtured and educated. For this, their exploitation by different profit makers for their personal gain had to be first indicted.” The Court  observed that this was the reason due to which the Constituent Assembly provided for Article 24 to save the children from exploitation further fortified by Artcile 45 providing for them’ the free and compulsory education which got converted into a fundamental right through the judgment in the case of Unni Krishnan v UOI (1993)1 SCC 645; also there are further provisions in our constitution desiring that a child must be given opportunity and facility to develop in a healthy manner.

 While discussing the Constitutional provisions in favour of children’s rights against exploitation and for their education and health, etc. the Supreme Court observed that “the one finding place in Article 24 has been a fundamental right ever since 28th January, 1950. Article 45 too has been raised to high pedestal by Unni Krishnan, which was decided on 4th February, 1993. Though other articles are part of directive principles, there are fundamental in the governance of our country and it is the duty of all the organs of the State (a la Article 37) to apply these principles. Judiciary, being also one of the three principal organs of the State, has to keep the same in mind when called upon to decide matters of great public importance. Abolition of child labour is definitely a matter of great public concern and significance.”

While talking of international commitment to the children the Court observed about the importance of the CRC that “This Convention affirms that children’s right require special protection and it aims, not only to provide such protection, but also to ensure the continuous improvement in the situation of children all over the world, as well as their development and education in conditions of peace and security. Thus, the Convection not only protects the child’s civil and political right, but also extends protection to child’s economic, social, cultural and humanitarian rights.”

 The Government of India deposited its instrument of accession to the above-mentioned conventions on December 11, 1992 with the United Nation’s Secretary-General contains the Declaration with the following situation of the children in India “…recognising that the child has to be protected from exploitation of all forms including economic exploitation; nothing that for several reasons children of different ages do work in India; having prescribed minimum ages for employment in hazardous occupations and in certain other areas; having made regulatory provisions regarding hours and conditions of employment; and being aware that it is not practical immediately to prescribe minimum ages for admission to each and every area of employment in India-the Government of India undertakes to take measures to progressively implement the provisions of Article 32 of the CRC.

The Court also observed that the International Labour Organisation has been playing an important role in theprocess of gradual elimination of child labour and to protect child from industrial exploitation. It has focused five main issues :-

1. Prohibition of children labour.
2. Protecting child labour at work.
3. Attacking the basic causes of child labour.
4. Helping children to adopt to future work.
5. Protecting the children of working parents.

Till now 18 Conventions and 16 recommendations have been adopted by the ILO in the interest of working children all over the world.  It also stated that The Royal Commission on Labour reported in 1931 as it had “examined to conditions of child labour in different industries and had found that children had been obliged to work any number of hours per day as required by their masters. It was also found that they were subject to corporal punishment. The Commission had felt great concern at the placing of children by parents to employers in return for small sums of money; and as this system was found to be indefensible it recommended that any bond placing a child should be regarded as void.” Based on the recommendation of this Commission “came to be discussed in the Legislative Assembly and theChildren (Pleading of Labour) Act, 1933 came to be passed, which may be said to be the first statutoryenactment dealing with child labour.”

Directions given by the SC in this case:

 (1) A survey would be made of the aforesaid type of child labour which would be completed within six months from today.

 (2) to start with, work could be taken up regarding those employment which have been mentioned in Article 24, which may be regarded as core sector, to determine which the hazardous aspect of the employment would be taken as criterion. The most hazardous employment may rank first in priority, to be followed by comparatively less hazardous and so on. It may be mentioned here that the National Child Labour Policy as announced by the Government of India has already identified some industries for priority action and the industries to identified are as below :- The match industry in Sivakasi, Tamil Nadu The diamond polishing industry in Surat, Gujarat. The precious stone polishing industry in Jaipur, Rajasthan. The glass industry in Firozabad, Uttar Pradesh. The brass-ware industry in Mirzapur-Bhadohi, Uttar Pradesh. The lock-making industry in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh.The state industry in Markapur, Andhra Pradesh.The slate industry in Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh.

(3) The employment to be given as per our direction could be dovetailed to other assured employment. On this being done, it is apparent that our direction would not require generation of much additional employment.

(4) The employment so given could as well be the industry where the child is employed, a public undertaking and would be manual in nature in as much as the child in question must be engaged in doing manual work. The understanding chosen for employment shall be one which is nearest to the place of residence of the family.

(5) In those cases where alternative employment would not be made available as aforesaid, the parent/guardian of the concerned child would be paid the income which would be earned on the corpus, which would be a sum of Rs.85,000/- for each child, every month. The employment given or payment made would cease to be operative if the child would not be sent by the parent/guardian for education.

(6) On discontinuation of the employment of the child, his education would be assured in suitable institution with aview to make it a better citizen. It may be pointed out that Article 45 mandates compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of 14 years; it is also required to be free. It would be the duty of the Inspectors to see that this call of the Constitution is carried out.

(7) A district could be the unit of collection so that the executive head of the district keeps a watchful eve on the work of the Inspectors. Further, in view ofthe magnitude of the task, a separate cell in the Labour Department of the appropriate Government would be created. Monitoring of the scheme would also be necessary and the Secretary of the Department could perhaps do this work. Overall monitoring by the Ministry of Labour. Government of India, would be beneficial and worthwhile.

(8) The Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, Government of India would apprise this Court within one year of today about the compliance of aforesaid directions. If the petitioner would need any further of other order inthe light of the compliance report, it would be open to him to do so.

(9) We should also like to observe that on the directions given being carried out, penal provision contained inthe aforenoted 1936 Act would be used where employment of a child labour, prohibited by the Act, would be found.

(10) Insofar as the non-hazardous jobs are concerned, the Inspector shall have to see that the working hours of the child are not more than four to six hours a day and it receives education at least for two hourseach day. It would also be see that the entire cost of education is borne by the employer.