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Essential to evolve system where no contractor is allowed to employ child labour: SC

The top court’s bench comprising of Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy sought reply from the Centre and all the state governments on the matter.

SNS | New Delhi |

Taking note of sudden spike in number of child trafficking cases during the lockdown, the Supreme Court on Monday, said that it is essential to evolve a system where no contractor is allowed to employ child labour. The apex court also suggested that this clause should be made part of the contractual engagement.

The top court’s bench comprising of Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy sought reply from the Centre and all the state governments on the matter.

“Only policing won’t do. We are the ones who provide them a market since child labour is cheap. We will have to start with contractors…,” observed the bench. The court issued notice and fixed the matter for further hearing after two weeks.

The SC suggested that contractors must be registered, and their employees have to be sought to ensure no child labour was being employed.

Child Rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi’s NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan filed a Public Interest litigation (PIL) in the apex court.

Kailash Satyarthi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for the “struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education”.

Senior advocate HS Phoolka, representing the NGO, said the apex court suggested that the government should blacklist those contractors who were found employing child labour.

“I informed the top court that most of the child labour had gone back, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and I urged the court that steps should be taken that they are not brought back,” said Phoolka.

The top court also asked Phoolka to find out ways so that children are not exploited, and some concrete steps should be taken in this direction.

“We wanted you to do some homework on it,” said the bench to Phoolka, who cited before the court that many cases of girl child being sold have been reported.

The bench queried from both the petitioner and Centre’s counsel “Can every contractor who does private work also be registered somewhere?…This issue exists because there is a market for engaging child labour.”

The Chief Justice noted: “Yes we are aware. Trafficking being done for prostitution and for child labour.”

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta representing Centre too has been asked by the SC to suggest measures to curb this menace.

Mehta told the court that he and Phoolka will work on the matter together and collate suggestions. Phoolka contended before the court that a proactive approach needs to be adopted by all district child welfare committees, especially in the vulnerable districts.

SC suggested that it can also set up an experts committee on the matter.