Directs Centre to frame rehabilitation scheme for rescued children

The Supreme Court on Monday banned the employment of children in circuses and directed the Union government to take immediate steps to rescue those engaged in such employment.

A Bench of Justices Dalveer Bhandari and A.K. Patnaik, passing orders on a petition filed by the Bachpan Bachao Andolan, said: “To implement the fundamental right of children under Article 21A [right to education], it is imperative that the Central government issue suitable notifications prohibiting the employment of children in circuses within two months.”

The Bench said, “Mostly, these children are sold to circus owners either by agents or their relatives, or sometimes the poor parents are lured into the web by promising high salaries and a luxurious life and later put into child trafficking.”

Underlining the need for protecting children, it said: “More than one-third of the country's population, around 440 million, is below 18 years of age. India's children are India's future. They are the harbingers of growth, potential fulfilment, change, dynamism, innovation and creativity. It is necessary that for a healthy future, we must protect, educate and develop the child population so that their citizenry is productive.”

Writing the order, Justice Bhandari said: “Deprivation of children from getting educated violates their fundamental right for education enshrined under Article 21A of the Constitution. Deprivation of the child from playing and expression of thoughts and feelings is a violation of the fundamental right to freedom of expression.”

‘Trafficking on the rise'

The Bench pointed out that trafficking in women and children was on the rise as it had become an increasingly lucrative business, especially since the risk of being prosecuted was vey low.

It said: “Women and children do not usually come to the brothels on their own will. They are brought through highly systematic, organised and illegal trafficking networks run by experienced individuals who buy, transport and sell children into prostitution.”

The Bench directed the Centre to conduct simultaneous raids in all circuses to liberate children and check violation of their fundamental rights. “The rescued children [should] be kept in care and protective homes till they attain the age of 18.”

The Bench directed the Centre to frame a proper scheme of rehabilitation for the rescued children from circuses. The government should talk to the parents of the children, and “in case they are willing to take their children back to their homes, they may be directed to do so after proper verification.”

The petition was filed in the wake of serious violations and abuse of children who were forcefully detained in circuses, in many instances without any access to their families and under extreme inhuman conditions.

The petition said there were instances of sexual abuse on a daily basis, as well as physical and emotional abuse. “The children are deprived of the basic human needs of food and water.”

The Bench directed the Secretary, Ministry of Human Resource Development, and the Department of Women and Child Development to file a comprehensive affidavit of compliance within 10 weeks.

It directed the matter to be listed on July 19 for further directions in respect of other fields.