The expression ‘traffic in human beings’ include (a) selling and buying of men, women and children like goods; (b) immoral traffic in women and children, including prostitution; (c) devadasis; and (d) slavery. To punish these acts, the Parliament has made the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956.
The term ‘begaf means compulsory work without remuneration. It was a peculiar Indian system under which the local zamindars sometimes used to force their tenants to render services without any payment. In addition to begar, the Article 23 prohibits other ‘similar forms of forced labour’ like ‘bonded labour’. The term ‘forced labour’ means compelling a person to work against his will. The word ‘force’ includes not only physical or legal force but also force arising from the compulsion of economic circumstances, that is, working for less than the minimum wage. In this regard, the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976; the Minimum Wages Act, 1948; the Contract Labour Act, 1970 and the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 were made.
Article 23 also provides for an exception to this provision. It permits the State to impose compulsory service for public purposes, as for example, military service or social service, for which it is not bound to pay. However, in imposing such service, the State is not permitted to make any discrimination on grounds only of religion, race, caste or class.
2. Prohibition of Employment of Children in Factories, etc. Article 24 prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 years in any factory, mine or other hazardous activities like construction work or railway. But it does not prohibit their employment in any harmless or innocent work.
The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, is the most important law in this direction. In addition, the Employment of Children Act, 1938; the Factories Act, 1948; the Mines Act, 1952; the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958; the Plantation Labour Act, 1951; the Motor Transport Workers Act, 1951; Apprentices Act, 1961; the Bidi and Cigar Workers Act, 1966; and other similar acts prohibit the employment of children below certain age.
In 1996, the Supreme Court directed the establishment of Child Labour Rehabilitation Welfare Fund in which the offending employer should deposit a fine of *20,000 for each child employed by him. It also issued directions for the improvement of education, health and nutrition of children.
The Commissions for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005 was enacted to provide for the establishment of a National Commission and State Commissions for Protection of Child Rights and Children’s Courts for providing speedy trial of offences against children or of violation of child rights.
In 2006, the government banned the employment of children as domestic servants or workers in business establishments like hotels, dhabas, restaurants, shops, factories, resorts, spas, tea-shops and so on. It warned that anyone employing children below 14 years of age would be liable for prosecution and penal action.
Child Labour Amendment (2016)
The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016, amended the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986. It has renamed the Principal Act as the Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986.
The Amendment Act prohibits the employment of children below 14 years in all occupations and processes. Earlier, this prohibition was applicable to 18 occupations and 65 processes.
Further, the Amendment Act prohibits the employment of adolescents (14 to 18 years of age) in certain hazardous occupations and processes.
The Amendment Act also introduces more stringent punishment for the offenders. It is an imprisonment of 6 months to 2 years, or a fine of ?20,000 to ^50,000, or both. In case of repeated offences, the imprisonment is of 1 year to 3 years.