The Delhi High Court was “concerned and worried” that girls rescued from different parts of the city and sent to shelter homes were not getting the education required to help them earn a livelihood and live with dignity in the future.
Hearing a case against a senior scientist of Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Pusa, who was booked on a complaint that he employed a 10-year-old girl as domestic help, Justice Suresh Kait said prosecution of people for allegedly employing children below 14 years of age appeared to be cases of “misplaced sympathy” when there was no adequate infrastructure to rehabilitate them.
The court, while exonerating the scientist of all the charges, said anti-child labour laws could not serve their purpose unless the rescued minors were provided proper education that could land them jobs.
Putting these children in shelter homes, the court said, was meaningless without their rehabilitation.
The court made the observations about the state of children’s homes after it learnt that the government’s Child Welfare Committee (CWC) had sent the girl from the scientist’s home to her grandmother, who was “too old and poor” to take care of her.
The girl had told the CWC that she would like to return to the scientist’s house, where she had been staying like “their own child” ever since her grandmother sent her there. She said her father had abandoned the family and her mother is mentally challenged.
Justice Kait said the CWC’s exercise could do nothing good to the girl because it neither rehabilitated her nor made better arrangements.
“In the process, the child was sent back to the same situation. It defeated the objective of the Juvenile Justice Act and the Child Labour Act. Therefore, I have no hesitation to say that, as stated by the child, the respondent was a better option, who was properly taking care of her and keeping her as own child,” he said.
“The purpose and intent of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act is that no child should be employed as a bonded labour and left uneducated and unemployed. Therefore, the prime duty of the state is to put such children either in educational institutions or engage them to learn technical work so that they are able to earn their livelihood. They can easily be brought up in children’s homes and be prepared to serve the nation as good citizens,” he said.
During the hearing, the government told the court that more