The judiciary may be the upholder of law and justice but when it
comes to child labour, children below the age of 14 can be found
working in the periphery of Delhi court premises and sometimes
even inside the complexes.
These children are seen working as tea vendors, aides to lawyers,
notaries public and food vendors in and around Tis Hazari, Patiala
House, Rohini, Dwarka, Karkardooma and the newly-built Saket
Nasir, 14, is one such boy. He works in two shifts at the Tis
Hazari court. In the first half, he works as an aide to the
notaries public and in the second half sells bread pakoras.
"My duty is to persuade every common man to get an affidavit made
through me and then I make bread pakoras. Every day, I earn
Rs.65," he says with a smile.
When asked about the prevalence of child labour in the Tis Hazari
court, Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Vinod Yadav told IANS he
would ask police to conduct a survey and accordingly action would
"Such an issue should be brought to police's notice and strict
action should be taken against people who are hiring children to
work," the judge said.
While accepting that children do work in courts, senior advocate
H.S. Phoolka said: "This is very wrong. If the ruling of the
(Delhi) High Court is not being followed in the district courts,
then who else will follow it?"
A Delhi High Court judgment July 15, 2009, ordered a complete ban
on the employment of children below the age of 14 in domestic
sectors and eateries.
Bharti Ali, co-director of NGO HAQ: Centre for Child Rights, says
it is very difficult to register a case against child labour,
"whether it is in the police station or courts".
"All kinds of violations are taking place in courts and lawmakers
are just sitting idle. Whether it is Delhi High Court or the
district courts, right outside you can see children working in
dhabas and inside the court complex too... a complete violation
and disregard of law under the nose of the people who make law,"
Ali told IANS.
A National Social Audit Report-2010 states that conviction rate in
child labour cases is very low and most employers go scot-free.
In Delhi alone, of the 94 such cases, there were only 11
convictions, the report said. Nationwide, around 3,053 offenders
were prosecuted of which only 21 were penalised.
Prabir Basu, national convenor of the Campaign Against Child
Labour (CACL) -- a network of anti-child labour groups --,
explains the poor conviction rate.
"The excuses often given by policymakers and officials are that it
is not possible for labour inspectors to enter houses and conduct
raids, as household is still not defined as industry."
Admitting that "small children are found loitering around in the
court complexes selling various things", Rajiv Khosla,
spokesperson of the Delhi Bar Association, said: "At least in
courts, where people come for justice, where laws and rules are
made, child labour should be strictly punished."
Khosla noted that a magistrate can take cognisance of child labour
and initiate action.
In 2007, a magistrate ordered an investigation into a minor being
employed by a caterer in the Rohini Court complex after noticing
the child serving lunch at a chamber of judges.
Social activist Ashok Pandey, who has been working for children
and the homeless, says in most cases child labourers do not
disclose their correct age as their employers instruct them not to
disclose their minor status.
When this IANS correspondent asked a boy working at a tea stall in
the Patiala court his age, the barely four-foot-tall boy in short
pants and a bright t-shirt with cartoon characters, said he was
"The 2001 census reports that India has 12 million child labourers
while other NGOs claim it is much more than 20 million," says
Priya Subramanian of NGO Save the Children.
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