Children helping parents to sell small articles is not child labor; being poor not a crime: Kerala High Court

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The Kerala High Court recently said that children helping their parents sell pens and other small articles cannot be regarded as child labor, and hence, the police and Child Welfare Committee (CWC) cannot take the children of migrant parents in custody for loitering in the street selling things [Pappu Bawariya and Another v District Collector Civil Station and others].

Justice VG Arun, however, clarified that there is no doubt that children should be sent for education instead of being allowed to loiter in the street.

“I am at a loss to understand as to how the activity of the children in helping their parents in selling pens and other small articles would amount to child labour. No doubt, the children ought to be educated, rather than being allowed to loiter on the streets along with their parents,” the Court observed in its order passed on January 6.

The Court also quoted Mahatma Gandhi on poverty.

“To be poor is not a crime and to quote the father of our nation, poverty is the worst form of violence.”

The Court was hearing a plea filed by parents, natives of Rajasthan, seeking custody of their two children.

The petitioners along with their children had come down to Kerala to eke out a living by selling pens, chains, bangles, rings, etc.

On November 29, 2022, the police nabbed the children on the allegation that they were being forced to do child labor by selling articles on the streets.

Thereafter, the children were produced before the Child Welfare Committee and subsequently, sent to Snehabavan Shelter Home.

This prompted the petitioners to approach the High Court seeking direction to the concerned authorities to release the children,

The parents of the children undertook before the Court not to send their children to sell things on the street and educate them instead.

The Court, however, wondered how these children can be provided with good education when their parents themselves are leading a nomadic life.

“In interaction with the petitioners, they undertook not to let the children onto the streets to sell articles and to take measures to educate them. I wonder how the children can be provided with proper education while their parents lead a nomadic life,” the Court said.

Even then, the police or the Child Welfare Committee cannot take the children into custody and keep them away from their parents, the Court made it clear.

“As per the principle of family responsibility, the primary responsibility of care, nurture and protection of the child is that of the biological family. Therefore, the holistic development of Vikas and Vishnu cannot be attained by separating them from their biological family,” the order stated.

Hence, the Court said that the attempt of the State should be to provide the children with proper education, opportunity and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity.

Therefore, it directed the concerned authorities to release the children from the shelter home back to their parents.

The petitioners were represented by advocate Mrinuaal.

The matter will be heard next on January 10, 2023.

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