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  • Shreya Sinha

INDIAN CONSTITUTION AND CHILD RIGHTS

Arya Chandrakant Gaddam, 1st yearBALLB (Hons), Maharashtra National Law University, Aurangabad

 
“Little Children are a treasure
Their worth you can’t measure.”

The reason for quoting these lines from the poem ‘precious little children’ by Ron Zupsic[1] is that I found these lines apt for describing how precious children are. Children are the ones who determine how the world is going to be in the future. They are an important asset of a nation. Children are an eternity of hope in the human being and a promise for growth. Every country, whether established or developing, links its success to the status of a child. A child of today cannot grow into a responsible and productive member of tomorrow's community unless he is assured of an atmosphere conducive to his social and physical health. Neglecting children means sacrificing society as a whole. If children are robbed of their childhood—socially, culturally, physically and mentally—the country is dispossessed of future human capital for social change, economic empowerment, peace and order, social cohesion and good citizenship. Here, Child rights come into play, which ensures healthy and overall development of children and guarantees them basic human rights.

Before getting into Child rights, it is vital to understand what really is a “right”. To put it simply, rights refer to something a person is allowed to do or something he is entitled to have which cannot be taken away from him. For ex., every person has the right to three basic necessities of life that is food, shelter and clothes. These are basic rights which are needed to live and it cannot be taken away from a person. However, rights are different from privilege as privilege is something which is earned while on the other hand rights are something a person inherits by birth. Sometimes, rights are also given in form of laws, like fundamental rights in the Constitution of India, thus giving a legal assurance and protection. Rights are significant for the functioning of society as they embody key values like fairness, equity, dignity etc. Most importantly, having rights enables people to speak up against the unjust or poor treatment from the public authorities. They protect the minority from the oppression of the majority. Thus, given this importance of rights, Child rights which are explicitly available for the children under 18 years of age[2], are very crucial for protection of children. Especially in country like India, with given the huge population and various problems like child abuse, child labour, sex trafficking, the significance of child rights increases. To sum up everything stated so far, child rights hold an important position in the proper functioning of society and legal system.

The Constitution of India guarantees the rights of children as of any other citizen, but also gives special rights to children. The founding fathers of the Constitution have incorporated specific provisions in chapter III and chapter VI of the constitution through fundamental rights and directive principles of state policy. The UN Convention on Child Rights forms a great source for these child rights.

There are some rights in the constitution which are particularly available for children. One of these, often considered the most important one is Article 21A. Over the years, the article 21 has been interpreted by the Supreme Court in different ways. In such a case, Mohini Jain v. State of Karnataka[3]the Court comprehended that the right to life with dignity includes the right to education. Then, this particular article was inserted by Constitution (Eighty Sixth Amendment) Act 2010 and states that “The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years in such manner as the State may, by law, determine.” This particular article was evolved from a directive principle of state policy (DPSP) which is Article 45. It states that The State shall endeavour to provide, within a period of ten years from the commencement of this Constitution, for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years. It was stated by the court in the Mohini case that DPSP cannot be isolated from the fundamental rights as they are fundamental in the governance of the state. The other DPSPs which ensure child rights are Article 35(e) and Article 35(f). The Article 35(e) states that health and strength of workers, men and women, and the tender age of children are not abused and that citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength. This principle protects children against exploitation. On the other hand, Article 35(f) states that children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against