Child Protection Policies and Laws in India — Law Insider

By Snehil Sharma

Out of one billion plus population of India, all most 400 million is constituted by children which is comparatively higher than any other country across the globe. It is implied from these statistics that nearly 1/3 rdof India’s population is below the mark of 18 years. It is a well-established fact that growth and development of children within any country is the deciding factor for the future growth of that country[1]. Therefore, children are always regarded as a crucial national asset of any country. However, even after being considered as crucial, there are various instances where children are exposed to exploitative and vulnerable situations.

Indian children are facing major issues such as gender inequality, malnutrition, illiteracy, child marriage, child, labour, child trafficking etc. and they have all the necessary rights to be protected from such situations. But, such vested rights can only be brought into use if the problems and risks which they face is acknowledged and those who are encountering such problems are aware about such legal remedies. The legal framework of India has been designed keeping in mind the best interests of children as they might need help and protection from law. However, they usually resist any sort of legal action either due to unawareness or due to external influence which is a common mistake.

Who is a Child?

The term ‘Child’ has been explained in Indian legislations for numerous purposes whether it be for denoting personal relationships, for indicating the individual capacity, or for providing special protection. The legal perception of child therefore depends upon the purpose for which it is being applied. However, for a general understanding, any individual who is below the age of eighteen years is considered as a child until and unless, the local law being applied upon that individual prescribes his/her majority to be attained earlier.

It is the need of an hour to create appropriate awareness regarding the basic legal frameworks and understanding the rights they safeguard. Any individual will only be able to convince a child or her/his parent for legal action only if he is very well aware regarding such laws. Knowing the Laws can further empower the individuals to deal with the issues of children in a better way.

Indian Constitution & Child

The Constitution of India inculcate various provisions to safeguard children within the Fundamental Rights (Part III) and Directive Principles of State Policy (Part IV). Some important articles of Constitution which guarantee protection are:

  • Article 14: This article ensures equality before law to every individual including children coupled with equal legal protection without any sort of arbitrariness & discrimination.
  • Article 21: This article ensures right to life and personal liberty to children.
  • Article 21A: Every child between six to fourteen years is entitled to free and compulsory education under this article.
  • Article 23: This article prevents human trafficking.
  • Article 24: This article protects children within the age of 14 years from employment in mines, factories and any other sort of hazardous employment.
  • Article 47: This article ensures basic nutrition, appropriate standard of living along with improved public health[2].

Indian Penal Code, 1860 & Child

The Indian Penal Code of 1860 also intends to specifically protect the rights of children through its provisions and punish offenders for a crime related to children. Some of these sections are:

  • Section 83: This section provides that Nothing can be considered as an offence which has been done by any child who is above seven years of age and within twelve years.
  • Section 305: This section punishes abetment of suicide of any individual who is under 18 years of age.
  • Section 317: This section prohibits abandonment of children by parents or care taker through prescribed punishment.
  • Section 361: This section provides punishment for kidnapping a child if such child is below 16 years (if male) and below 18 years of age (if female).

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act of 2000

This legislation provides regulations concerning those juveniles who are in conflict with law and are in need of specific care and protection. Such children are entitled to care, protection and treatment by this act in a manner which is child friendly. Appropriate adjudication & disposition of the cases relating to juveniles is ensured keeping in mind their rehabilitation and best interest.

Probation of Offenders Act of 1958

This act in compliance with Juvenile Justice Act of 2000 tries to make sure that no individual, who is below 21 years of age faces any imprisonment until and unless there is no other option left.

Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act of 1976:

This act has its focal view towards eradication of bonded labour system prevailing within India which eventually exploits the section of society which is economically weak including children of that weaker section[3].

Other Legal Frameworks Concerning Child Rights

Apart from the above mentioned legal frameworks, there are numerous other legislations which are introduced concerned with individual issues related to children such as:

  • Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956
  • Prevention of Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1987
  • Factories Act, 1948 (Amended in 1949, 1950 and 1954)
  • Orphanages and Other Charitable Homes (Supervision and Control) Act, 1960
  • Transplantation of Human Organ Act, 1994
  • Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989
  • The Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Amendment Act, 2002
  • Infant Milk Substitutes, Feeding Bottles and Infant Foods (Regulation of Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 1992
  • Information Technology Act, 1996
  • Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006
  • National Charter for Children, 2003
  • The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2012
  • Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act (Amendment, 2006), 2006
  • The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009
  • The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2016
  • Juvenile Justice Rules Gazette Notification, 2016
  • National Plan of Action, 2005[4]

Government Policies Regarding Protection of Children

India is amongst those few countries which took initiative and have written policy for children. The Indian Government has introduced number of policies concerning physical, mental and social development of the children within the country. Various policies have also been formulated for health & education of such children. Few crucial government policies concerning children are as follows:

  • National Policy for Children of 1974.
  • National Policy on Education of 1986.
  • National Policy on Child Labour of 1987.
  • National Health Policy of 2002[5].

Case Laws

There have been various instances where Indian Courts have given decisions keeping in mind the interests of children. Few judgements are as follows:

Conclusion

Any country cannot flourish if children of such country are suffering and are not protected. It is the need of the hour that society should start considering children as a custodian for future and torch bearers of the upcoming generations. They will carry forward our cultural heritage, philosophies, ideologies and knowledge just like messengers. They are our future components but unfortunately, there is a large fraction of children within the society who are deprived from their basic rights and are further exposed to abuse and exploitation.

Hence, it can be concluded that, necessary steps should be taken towards safeguarding the interests of children within the society and maximum efforts are to be made to meet the objectives of existing legislations. Once, the implementation of legal framework is done appropriately, then children within the country will eventually experience the true essence of childhood.

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[1] Lawteacher.net 2020. What Are Children’s Rights in India? [online] Available at: <https://www.lawteacher.net/free-law-essays/international-law/what-are-childrens-rights-in-india-international-law-essay.php>.

[2] Rebecca Furtado, R., 2020. All You Need to Know About Child Rights in India. [online] iPleaders. Available at: <https://blog.ipleaders.in/child-rights-in-india/>.

[4] Supra Note 2.

[5] Venkatesh, 2020. Laws and Policies for Protection of Interest of Children: A Critical Analysis. [online] Legalserviceindia.com. Available at: <http://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-346-laws-and-policies-for-protection-of-interest-of-children-a-critical-analysis.html>.

[6] 1984 AIR 177, 1983 SCR (2) 473

[7] 1998 AIR (SC) 3164

[8] (1997) 8 SCC 114

[9] (1990) INSC 176

Originally published at https://lawinsider.in on September 10, 2020.