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Delhi High Court Approves the Plan of Action to Combat Child Labour in NCT of Delhi – Court on its own motion vs State of NCT of Delhi July 15, 2009

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We have got to work to save our children and do it with full respect for the fact that if we do not, no one else is going to do it.”

Dr. Dorothy I. Height

In this case the Delhi High Court has approved the Delhi Action Plan to Combat Child Labour prepared by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Government of India. Also in this judgement the Delhi High Court has laid down the roles and responsibility of all stakeholders.

The Court in its detailed order also ruled that :

 Subsequent to the filing of the aforesaid Action Plan, the Labour Department of Government of NCT of Delhi has raised some issues. According to the Labour Department, CLPRA, 1986 prohibits employment of children only in certain scheduled occupations and processes. Consequently, according to the Labour Department, child workers employed in non-hazardous jobs cannot be rescued. The Labour Department has further urged that in the Action Plan it has been stipulated that all children between the age of 14 to 18 years have to be liberated and handed over to the police, even though CLPRA, 1986, defines child as a person who has not completed 14 years of age.

 On a perusal of CLPRA, 1986, we are of the view that under the said Act, only child workers employed in scheduled occupation and processes can be liberated and children employed above the age of 14 years cannot be rescued.

However, in our view, the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, would apply to children between the age of 14 and 18 years as well as to those children employed below the age of 14 years in non-scheduled occupation and processes. Consequently, the said children would be governed by the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 as well as Bonded Labour System (Abolition ) Act, 1976, if applicable and not by CLPRA, 1986, as stipulated in the Delhi Action Plan prepared by the National Commission.

 Moreover, at the request of Labour Department, we direct that the responsibility of lodging a police complaint against an employer employing child labour would lie with the Delhi Police and not the Labour Department as directed in the Delhi Action Plan. We further clarify that the authority to take action under the Bonded Labour System Abolition Act, 1976, would be the Deputy Commissioner of District concerned and not the Labour Department. Accordingly, paras (e) and (f) of para 7.7.2 of the Delhi Action Plan are amended.

 It is further clarified that the recovery of fine of Rs.20,000/- as stipulated by the Supreme Court in M.C. Mehta‟s case will not have to await a conviction order of the offending employer. The said amount would be recovered as arrears of land revenue and the said amount would be utilized for the educational needs of the rescued child even if the child has subsequently crossed the age of 14 years.

 The Deputy Director, Child Welfare, has also filed a Status Report stating that considering the capacity and existing strength of NGOs‟ and Government run institutions in Delhi, the department would be able to accommodate only about 500 additional children every month, since the restoration efforts take about 30 to 40 days‟ time. The said Status Report, however, states that all efforts would be made to motivate NGOs to enhance their capacity to accommodate more children and to register more Children Homes. Keeping in view the aforesaid infrastructural limitation, we direct the labour department to begin implementing the Delhi Action Plan by accommodating for the time being about 500 children every month. Moreover, being cognizant of the fact that ground level reality may be different from the one projected in the Action Plan, we grant liberty to the above-mentioned authorities to seek clarification or amendment of the Action Plan from this Court. To conclude, we would only quote what Dr. Dorothy I. Height, a social activist, has said, “we have got to work to save our children and do it with full respect for the fact that if we do not, no one else is going to do it.”

Consequently, we accept the Delhi Action Plan which provides a detailed procedure for interim care and protection of the rescued children to be followed by Labour Department as prepared by the National Commission and we further direct all the authorities concerned to immediately implement the same. The Government of NCT of Delhi through the Labour Department is directed to file its First Taken Report to this Court after six months.

Child Labour Delhi High Court Order 2009

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