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What are the constitutional provisions to prevent exploitation of children?

Article 24 of the Constitution prohibits employment of children below 14 years of age in factories and hazardous employment. Apart from this provision, Article 39 of the Constitution imposes upon the State an obligation to ensure that the health and strength of workers men and women and the tender age of the children are not abused and that citizens are not forced by economic necessary to enter avocations unsuited to their age and strength.

In People’s Union for Democratic Rights v. Union of India, it was contented that the Employment of children in the construction work of Asiad Projects in Delhi since construction industry was not a process specified in the schedule to the children Act. The Court rejected this contention and held that the construction work is hazardous employment therefore under article 24 no children below the age of 14 years can be employed in the construction work even if construction is not specified in the schedule to the Employment of Children Act, 1938.

In pursuance to the above duty the Employment of Children Act, 1938 and The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, have been enacted. This article however does not prohibit their employment in any innocent or harmless job or work. In a landmark judgement in M.C. Mehta v. State of Tamil Nadu, the Supreme Court has held that children below the age of 14 years cannot be employed in any hazardous industry, mines or other works and has laid down exhaustive guidelines how the State authorities should protect economic, social and humanitarian rights of millions of children, working illegally in public and private sections.


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