Rajya Sabha on Tuesday passed a bill which prohibits employment of children below 14 years in all occupations or processes except where the child helps his family, with the provision for imprisonment up to two years for any violation.
'The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill' makes employment of children below 14 years as cognizable offence for employers and provides for penalty for parents.
The Bill, which was almost unanimously passed by voice vote, defines children between 14-18 years as adolescents and lays down that they should not be employed in any hazardous occupations and processes.
It provides for enhanced punishment for violators. The penalty for employing a child has been increased to imprisonment between 6 months and two years (from 3 months to one year) or a fine of Rs 20,000 to Rs 50,000 (from Rs 10,000-20,000) or both.
The second time offence will attract imprisonment of one year to three years from the earlier 6 months and two years.
According to provisions of the Bill, no child should be employed in any occupation or process except where he or she helps his family after school hours or helps his family in fields, home based work, forest gathering or attends technical institutions during vacations for the purpose of learning.
Hailing the development as a "historic" step, Labour Minister Bandaru DattatreyaBandaru Dattatreya said it is aimed at "total abolition of child labour".
Explaining the exception, Dattatreya said that 'family' has been exempted as the relationship between employer and employee does not exist and that a law should be framed keeping in mind the ground realities as well as ensuring that it is implementable. Recalling his own childhood, he said even he used to help his family.