The future of the nation depends upon the growth and development of Children in the country. It is the state’s duty to look after the development of children as they are the future of India. The Indian constitution defines certain rights for the citizens of the country, which also includes the rights of children directly or indirectly. In India, child rights must go beyond human rights which exits to ensure fair and proper treatment of the people across the country.
The Convention on the rights of child defines the term ‘child’ as a person below the age of eighteen years unless the majority is defined differently under the applicable law governing children.
In India, the Constitution defines a person below the age of fourteen years as children. Also, the Children Act, 1960, defines a child as a person who has not attained the age of 16 years in the case of the boy and 18 years in the case of a girl.
The constitution, in its fundamental rights and directive principles, guarantees the rights granted to children in India. The constitution accords the right to children as citizens of the country and also, due to their special status, certain special laws are enacted for this purpose.
In 1950, the constitution included the Rights of Children in the provision of fundamental rights and directive principles. Many individuals and activists have approached the apex court for the amendments relating to the rights of children. There are certain constitutional provisions for children.
Article 21 A has listed down the rights of the child to get free education for all children in the age group of 6-14 years in a manner as determined by the state. The apex court in its liberal interpretation of life and liberty under article 21 held that liberty includes the right of a human being to live with dignity along with the right to education.
Article 45 of the Constitution lays down that the state shall endeavour to provide early childhood care and education for children until they attain the age of six years. Article 45 is the provision for free and compulsory education for all children. Right to free primary education is significant for helping children to develop discipline, life skills and to find a safe and healthy environment to nurture the physiological development of the child.
Article 51 A specifically states that it shall be the fundamental duty of the parent and guardian to provide opportunities for education to his child between the age of six and fourteen.
In the case of P Unnikrishnan vs State of Andhra Pradesh, the apex court included the right of education under the ambit of right to life. The Court observed that education is a preparation for living and therefore concluded that every citizen has a right to education.
Right To Be Protected Against Exploitation
Article 23 explains the prohibition of human trafficking and forced labour. The Indian Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code have separate provisions to prohibit human trafficking in order to track and govern these heinous crimes.
Article 24 lays down the prohibition of employment of children. It states that no child below fourteen years of age shall be employed to work in any factory or be engaged in any hazardous employment that may directly or indirectly affect the healthy growth of the child
The apex court in case of MC Mehta vs State of Tamil Nadu noted that the menace of child labour was widespread in India and that is the reason; the court issued wide directions against prohibiting the employment of children below the age of 14 years and making arrangements of the funds for their education.
The exploitation extends to abuse, negligence and violence against children. The child cannot be made to work in difficult or dangerous conditions.
Article 39(e) states the right of the child to be protected from being abused and forced by economic necessity to enter any occupation unsuited to the age and strength of the child.
It is the right of a child to get equal opportunities and facilities for his personal growth and development. Along with this the children also have equal rights as the citizens of India, which includes the Right to equality (Article 14), Right against Discrimination (Article 15), Right to personal liberty (Article 21), Right to be protected from being trafficked and forced into the labour ( Article 23), Right to the standard living and improved public health (Article 47).
Constitutional Remedies For Infringement Of Rights Of The Child
If the fundamental rights of the children are infringed, the Indian constitution laid down several provisions for constitutional remedies through Article 32 and 226. Article 32 states that a person has the right to move the Supreme Court for protecting his fundamental rights. According to article 226, a person may approach the High Court for the same reasons as mentioned above, however, it is not necessary that the right should be a fundamental right in order to take legal action under these provisions.
Public Interest Litigation may be filed in the apex court or the high court against the government by virtue of article 32 and 226 for the protection of rights of the child.
Some of the other important acts, legislations and policies framed by the government for the protection of child right are
- Indian Penal Code, 1860
- Guardian and Wards Act, 1890
- Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929
- Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, 1956
- The Women’s and Children’s Licensing Act, 1956
- Probation of Offenders Act, 1958
- Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986
- Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000
- Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Amendment Act, 2000
- Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012
- Orphanages and other Charitable Homes (Supervision and Control) Act, 1960
- National policy for Children, 1974
- Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976
- Prevention of Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substance Act, 1987
- Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006
- The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation0 Amendment Act, 2017
The rights of the child need to be protected in order to promote the well-being of the child since they require more protection than other people who have attained majority due to the set of unique needs stemming from their vulnerabilities. Every single child of the country deserves equality, no matter what colour, race, religion, language, gender define them.
Children with their development process can flourish and in turn, benefit the nation as they are the future of the Country. India, with the help of various international and national mechanisms, is constantly trying to secure the rights of the children.