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The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 is one the most debated acts regarding children in India. It outlines where and how children can work and where they can not. The provisions of the act are meant to be acted upon immediately after the publication of the act, except for part III that discusses the conditions in which a child may work. Part III can only come into effect as per a date appointed by the Central Government (which was decided as 26th of May, 1993).
The act defines a child as any person who has not completed his fourteenth year of age. Part II of the act prohibits children from working in any occupation listed in Part A of the Schedule; for example: Catering at railway establishments, construction work on the railway or anywhere near the tracks, plastics factories, automobile garages, etc. The act also prohibits children from working in places where certain processes are being undertaken, as listed in Part B of the Schedule; for example: beedi making, tanning, soap manufacture, brick kilns and roof tiles units, etc. These provisions do not apply to a workshop where the occupier is working with the help of his family or in a government recognised or aided school.
The act calls for the establishment of a Child Labour Technical Advisory Committee (CLTAC) who is responsible for advising the government about additions to the Schedule lists.
Part III of the act outlines the conditions in which children may work in occupations/processes not listed in the schedule. The number of hours of a particular kind of establishment of class of establishments is to be set and no child can work for more than those many hours in that particular establishment. Children are not permitted to work for more than three hour stretches and must receive an hour break after the three hours. Children are not permitted to work for more than six hour stretches including their break interval and can not work between the hours of 7 p.m. and 8 a.m. No child is allowed to work overtime or work in more than one place in a given day. A child must receive a holiday from work every week. The employer of the child is required to send a notification to an inspector about a child working in their establishment and keep a register of all children being employed for inspection.
If there is a dispute as to the age of the child, the inspector can submit the child for a medical exam to determine his/her age when a birth certificate is not available. Notices about prohibition of certain child labour and penalties should be posted in every railway station, port authority and workshop/establishment.
The health conditions of work being undertaken by children shall be set for each particular kind of establishment of class of establishments by the appropriate government. The rules may cover topics such as cleanliness, light, disposal of waste and effluents, drinking water, bathrooms, protection of eyes, maintenance and safety of buildings, etc.
Section IV of the act outlines various remaining aspects such as Penalties. The penalty of allowing a child to work in occupations/ processes outlined in the schedule which are prohibited is a minimum of 3 months prison time and/or a minimum of Rs. 10,000 in fines. Second time offenders are subject to jail time of minimum six months. Failure to notify an inspector, keep a register, post a sign or any other requirement is punishable by simple imprisonment and/or a fine up to Rs. 10,000. Offenders can only be tried in courts higher than a magistrate or metropolitan magistrate of the first class. Courts also have the authority to appoint people to be inspectors under this act.