Menace Of Child Labour
On March 16, 2017 the honorable Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, declared the appointment of Director General Child Protection Welfare Bureau illegal and void ab initio with further directions to make a new appointment within fifteen days. He observed that an illegal appointment had been made for the past four years as there was no concept of “acting charge” or “basis appointment”. In doing so he relied on his own judgments with citations PLD 2014 Lahore 591 and 2016 PLC(CS) 259 Karachi. I argued on behalf of the petitioners that the appointment has not been made in the right manner as the officer belonged to the Information Department. This was in contradiction with Child Protection Welfare Bureau Service Rules 2011, which require the officer to be from District Management Group, Secretariat Group or Provincial Management Services. I also argued that the appointment should be declared illegal and without any merit as the officer belonged to basic pay scale (BS) 18 whereas the appointee must be of BS scale 19.
The Assistant Advocate General submitted that the order of the honourable court had been followed as he presented a notification regarding the appointment of labour inspectors across the province of Punjab. It was shocking to witness that Child Protection Welfare Bureau established under the Punjab Destitute and Neglected Children Act in 2004 was in disarray due to the paucity of labour inspectors. This was adversely affecting the functioning of the Bureau as even after a lapse of thirteen years labour inspectors had not been appointed. It was only after the timely intervention of the honourable Chief Justice that labour inspectors were appointed across the province of Punjab. The Chief Justice further directed Secretary Labour to present a report regarding the functioning of labour inspectors and their role in eradicating the menace of child labour, keeping in consideration the essence of Article 25A of the Constitution which ensures that every child upto sixteen years of age would receive education.
The honourable Chief Justice also made an observation to the standing counsel that if any non-governmental organization wanted to join proceedings regarding the elimination of child labour it could contribute towards this public interest litigation proceeding.
I also brought to light a recent survey conducted by Pakistan Education Statistics (a department of Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training). According to this survey there are 22 million children out of school even though Pakistan has ratified certain international conventions, for instance 1957 ILO Forced Labour Convention and 1990 UN Rights of the Child Convention. Both the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan 1973 and the relevant labour laws prohibit the employment of children before the age of 14. Article 3 of the Constitution envisages the idea that the state shall ensure the elimination of all forms of exploitation thus reflecting the socialist character of the Constitution. Article 11(3) of the Constitution supports the notion that no child below the age of 14 years shall be engaged in any factory or mine or any other hazardous employment. Article 25A further manifests that the state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children between the ages of five and sixteen. Lastly, Article 37(e) of the Constitution states that the government shall ensure humane conditions of work and also ensure that children are not employed in workplaces where conditions are hazardous. The recent law passed by the Punjab Assembly called the Punjab Restriction On Employment Of Children Ordinance 2016 is a good step by the government but the real problem lies in its implementation. After the Eighteenth Amendment the subjects of labour and social welfare have been vested to the provinces, making it the responsibility of provinces to take remedial measures against the menace of child labour in both commercial establishments and domestic workplaces.
It will be a good step to see a policy on domestic household workers as well as children below fourteen years of age who are often treated in an inhumane manner, openly flouting the orders of the honourable Lahore High Court.
Once again I would like to appreciate the honourable Chief Justice for intervening at this juncture in the elimination of child labour. It is due to his efforts that the Child Protection Welfare Bureau has become operational by the functioning of labour inspectors across the province of Punjab and extricating illegal appointments.
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