HRLN files petition for Bachpan Bachao Andolan to protect human rights of children working in circuses

This petition brings to the notice of the Supreme Court the plight children working in Indian circuses. It asks the Hon'ble Court to outline guidelines specifically prohibiting the engagement of children below 18 years of age in any form. It also requests that the CBI be directed to investigate the gross violation of fundamental rights of children in circuses. The Petitioner is the society 'Bachpan Bachao Andolan' (BBA) who is a social movement involved in releasing children from exploitative labour, bondage and servitude. The Petition was brought as a result of the serious abuse of children forcibly detained in circuses. In many instances the children don t have access to their families and work under extreme, inhumane conditions. The Petition was filed when the BBA came into contact with many children who were trafficked into performing in circuses. The circus is an ancient form of indigenous entertainment with human performance playing a significant part. However, the circuses deprive the artistes, especially children, of their fundamental rights as human beings. Most of them are trafficked from some poverty stricken areas within Nepal or India. Once these children are here, they remain confined to the circus arena, with no freedom of movement or choice. Initial research on this issue started in July 2002. Once all the facts and figures were established, the Petitioner initiated a dialogue with the major circus owners and appealed to them to stop the trafficking, bondage, child labour and other violations. The Indian Circus Federation (ICF) responded positively but this body actually represents a small proportion of the industry (less than 10% of the big circuses and less than 20% of all circuses). In August 2003 the ICF agreed to make a declaration that there will be no further use of children in circuses in India. But this agreement was never implemented due to the lack of authority over federation members. The Petitioner continued to receive complaints from the parents of missing children from Nepal. It was difficult to control this trafficking since most circus companies lack a registered address or an office. It was found by the Petitioner that the children were deprived of sufficient food and were made to work from dawn until midnight without any rest. The conditions in which these children work are bad for their growth and development, indeed they could be life threatening. They can suffer mental, physical and sexual abuse at the hands of the circus managers and do not have any access to basic human rights. Thus this Petition was filed to ask the Court to outline guidelines to prohibit the employment of children in circuses. It also requested that the Court direct the CBI to conduct raids of circuses in order to free children and check the gross violation of their fundamental rights. The Petitioner seeks application of the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2000 and assurance that intra-state trafficking of children, their bondage, and forcible confinement, regular sexual harassment and abuses should be recognised offences under the Indian Penal Code and the Juvenile Justice Act. The Child Welfare Committees under the Act, should be empowered to award compensation to all those victims rescued from circuses with a time bound rehabilitation package and the State Government to create a fund for this. The Court directed that the Central government issue suitable notifications prohibiting the employment of children in circuses, that the The respondents are directed to conduct simultaneous raids in all the circuses to liberate the children and check the violation of fundamental rights of the children. That the rescued children be kept in the Care and Protective Homes till they attain the age of 18 years.That the respondents are directed to frame proper scheme of rehabilitation of rescued children from circuses, among other things.