India: Prohibitive Labour Laws In India

Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976

The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 ( Bonded Labour Abolition Act) is a prohibiting legislation which provides for the abolition of the bonded labour system with a view to prevent the economic and physical exploitation of the weaker sections of the society, and matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

Under the Bonded Labour Abolition Act, the term "bonded labour" has been defined to mean any labour or service rendered under the bonded labour system.

The term "bonded labour system" has been defined to mean the system of, forced or partly forced, labour under which a debtor enters or has, or is presumed to have, entered into an agreement with the creditor to the effect that:

(i) In consideration of an advance obtained by him or by any of his lineal ascendants or descendants (whether or not such advance is evidenced by the document) and in consideration of the interest, if any, due on such advance; or

(ii) In pursuance of any customary or social obligation; or

(iii) In pursuance of any obligation devolving on him by succession; or

(iv) For any economic consideration received by him or by any of his lineal ascendants or descendants; or

(v) By reason of his birth in any particular caste or community.

The debtor would render, by himself or through any member of his family, or any person dependent on him, labour or service, to the creditor, or for the benefit of the creditor, for a specific period or for an unspecified period, either without wages or for nominal wages.

Section 3 of the Bonded Labour Abolition Act provides that the provisions of this Act shall have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in any enactment other than this Act or in any instrument having effect by virtue of any enactment other than this Act.

Section 20 of the Bonded Labour Abolition Act provides that whoever abets any offence punishable under this Act shall, whether or not the offence abetted is committed, be punishable with the same punishment as is provided for the offence which has been abetted. For the purpose of this Act, "abetment" has the meaning assigned to it in the Indian Penal Code.

Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986

The Constitution of India incorporates provisions to secure labour protection to children. It expressly prohibits the employment of a child below the age of 14 years in work in any factory or mine or engagement in any other hazardous employment.

The policy of the Government is to ban the employment of children below the age of 14 years in factories, mines and hazardous employments and to regulate the working condition of children in other industries.

The Government enacted the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986 (the Child Labour Prohibition & Regulation Act), which prohibits the employment of children who have not completed their 14th year in 16 occupations and 65 processes1 like cinder picking, cleaning of ash pits, building operation, manufacturing or handling of pesticides and insecticides, and manufacturing of matches, explosives, fireworks, etc.

In addition, the Child Labour Prohibition & Regulation Act regulates the working conditions of children in all employments, which are not prohibited under the Act. It also fixes the number of hours and the period of work and requires the occupiers of establishments employing children to give notice to the local inspector and maintain the prescribed register.

Apart from the Child Labour Prohibition & Regulation Act, there are other legislations which also protect the interest of child labour. For example, the Factories Act, 1948 and the Mines Act, 1952 prohibit the employment of children below the age of 14 years. The Children (Pledging of Labour) Act, 1933, makes an agreement to pledge the labour of children void.

Directions of the Supreme Court on the Issue of Elimination of Child Labour

In a landmark judgment on 10 December 1996, in the case of MC Mehta v State of Tamil Nadu (1996) 6 SCC 756 [Writ Petition (Civil) No. 465/1986], the Supreme Court of India gave certain directions on the issue of elimination of child labour. The main features of the judgment are as under:

(i) Survey for identification of working children;

(ii) Withdrawal of children working in hazardous industry and ensuring their education in appropriate institutions;

(iii) Contribution at the rate of Rs 20,000 per child to be paid by the offending employers of children to a welfare fund to be established for this purpose;

(iv) Employment to one adult member of the family of the child so withdrawn from work and if that is not possible a contribution of Rs 5,000 to the welfare fund to be made by the State Government;

(v) Financial assistance to the families of the children so withdrawn to be paid out of the interest earnings on the corpus of Rs 20,000/25,000 deposited in the welfare fund, as long as the child is actually sent to a school; and

(vi) Regulating hours of work for children working in non-hazardous occupations so that their working hours do not exceed six hours per day and education for at least two hours is ensured. The entire expenditure on education is to be borne by the concerned employer.

The implementation of the directions of the Hon'ble Supreme Court is being monitored by the Ministry of Labour and Employment and compliance with the directions has been reported in the form of affidavits on 5 December 1997, 21 December 1999, 4 December 2000, 4 July 2001 and 4 December 2003, to the Hon'ble Supreme Court on the basis of the information received from the State Governments/Union Territories.

The Government is committed to eliminate child labour in all its forms and is moving in this direction in a targeted manner. 

Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Prohibition, Prevention and Redressal) Act, 2013

The Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Prohibition, Prevention and Redressal) Act, 2013 (SHW Act) was enacted by the Parliament to provide protection against sexual harassment of women at workplace and prevention and redressal of complaints of sexual harassment and for matters connected therewith.

The SHW Act makes it mandatory for every organization having 10 employees and more to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) to entertain complaints that may be made by an aggrieved women.

The SHW Act also incorporates provisions for formation of a Local Complaints Committee (LCC) in every district for entertaining complaints of sexual harassment at workplace from organisations where ICC has not been established due to having less than 10 employees.

The SHW Act provides that an aggrieved women may in writing make a compliant of sexual harassment to the ICC or LCC as the case may be within a period of three months from the date of occurrence of such incident. Further, in a case where the aggrieved woman is unable to make a complaint on account of her physical incapacity or Death, a complaint may be filed inter alia by her relative or legal heirs.

Footnotes

1 As last amended vide Notification No. S.O. 2280(E) dated 25 September 2008, issued by the Ministry of Labour and Employment (Child Labour Section).

Sulekha Kaul, Principal Associate, Vaish Associates Advocates
Phone: +91 11 42492516 Email: sulekha@vaishlaw.com

© 2017, Vaish Associates Advocates,
All rights reserved
Advocates, 1st & 11th Floors, Mohan Dev Building 13, Tolstoy Marg New Delhi-110001 (India).

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist professional advice should be sought about your specific circumstances. The views expressed in this article are solely of the authors of this article.

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