Kerala High Court: Children selling articles to help parents does not amount to forced labour

The Kerala High Court on Friday stated that children helping their parents in selling small articles on the streets do not amount to child labour and neither the Police nor the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) can take the children away from their parent’s custody and send them to a shelter home. [Pappu Bawariya and Another v District Collector Civil Station and others].

The petitioners Mr. Pappu Bawariya and his brother’s wife Mrs. Maya are natives of Rajasthan and had approached the court to seek custody of their children. In search of their livelihood, they migrated to Delhi but due to the inclement weather, they came down to Kerala. They earn their living by selling small articles like chains, rings, bangles, pens, etc. Petitioner 1 has a son named Vikas, aged 7 years and the Petitioner 2 has a son named Vishnu, aged 6 years. These children too accompany their parents to earn a livelihood.

On 29th of November 2022, these children were caught by the Station House Officer (4th Respondent). He alleged that the children were being forced to do child labour and were working on the streets by selling articles. They were thereafter presented before the Child Welfare Committee (3rd respondent) and they were thereupon sent to a shelter house situated at Palluruthy, Cochin (5th respondent). Since the day the children arrived at the shelter house, they have not shown any progress as they are taken away from their parent’s care and safety. Hence, This resulted in filing a writ petition by the Parents with the Kerala High Court seeking the release of Vikas and Vishu and their custodies.

On 20th December 2022, the parents through their learned Counsel submitted their concern stating that they fear the children will be sent by the 3rd Respondent to a Government Home in Delhi. The Court after hearing this passed an interim order directing not to transfer the children outside Kerala.

When this said matter was brought up again on 23rd December 2022, the parents stated that they were not allowed to interact with the children. So, the Court directed the respondents to allow the petitioners to interact with the children for one hour every day.

On 30th December 2022, the court called up the 3rd respondent asking them why the custody can not be transferred back to the petitioners. They responded back by saying that during a search operation conducted on 29th November 2022, the police had seen Vikas and Vishnu involved in selling articles at the Marine Drive area. This amounts to Child labour due to being of such young age. It was found that both Vikas and Vishnu come under the category of children in need of Care and Protection as per the Section 2 (14)(i)(ii) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act of 2015. Hence, they were sent to Respondent Number 5th for care and protection. The Committee found through an inquiry that the permanent residents of the parents and children is South Delhi and are presently residing in Iyyattu, Ernakulam, Kerala. The Committee was also of the opinion that the children should be brought up in their own culture and passed an order on 23rd December 2022 under Section 95 of the Act to send children to the Child Welfare Committee in New Delhi.

Justice VG Arun stated, I am at a loss to understand as to how the activity of the children in helping their parents in selling pens and other small articles would amount to child labour. No doubt, the children ought to be educated, rather than being allowed to loiter on the streets along with their parents. On interaction with the petitioners, they undertook not to let the children on to the streets for selling articles and to take measures for educating them.”

The Court concluded on the terms that it is the principal responsibility of the family to take care of the children, thereby directing the children to be released to their parents also, that the attempt of the State should be to provide proper education, opportunity and facilitates to develop in a healthy manner.


Source: Bar and Bench, LiveLaw

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