Home India News No kidding: Child labour rampant around Delhi courts

No kidding: Child labour rampant around Delhi courts

By Rashi Agarwal, IANS,

New Delhi : 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 court.

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 be taken.

“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 18.

“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.

(Rashi Agarwal can be contacted at [email protected])