The rights available to children can be classified into two categories, namely, constitutional rights and legal rights.
The constitutional rights and safeguards provided to children are mentioned below.
- The state is empowered to make any special provision for children. In other words, this provision enables the state to make affirmative discrimination in favour of children (Article 15(3)).
- The state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years (Article 21-A).
- Traffic in human beings, and forced labour are prohibited (Article 23(1)).
- No child below the age of fourteen years shall be employed in any factory, mine or any other hazardous occupation (Article 24).
- The state is required to ensure that children of tender age are not abused and that they are not forced by economic necessity to enter vocations unsuited to their age (Article 39(e)).
- The state is required to ensure 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 moral as well as material abandonment (Article 39(f)).
- The state shall endeavour to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years (Article 45).
- It shall be the duty of every parent or guardian to provide opportunities for education to his child or ward between the age of six and fourteen years (Article 51-A(k)).
The various legislations which contain several rights and safeguards for children are as follows:
- Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (2009) provides for every child of the age of six to fourteen years, the right to free and compulsory education in a neighbourhood school till the completion of elementary education.
- Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (2006) was enacted repealing the Child Marriage Restraint Act (1929) in order to prohibit child marriages rather than only restraining them. It makes child marriages voidable by giving choice to the children in the marriage to seek annulment.
- Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act (2000) aims at providing a juvenile justice system for juveniles in conflict with law as well as children in need of care and protection. It adopts a child-friendly approach in the adjudication and disposition of matters in the best interest of children and for their ultimate rehabilitation.
- Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act (1986) prohibits employment of children below 14 years in notified hazardous occupations and processes. It also regulates the working conditions of children in other employments. Further, it obtains uniformity in the definition of “child” in the related laws. It has repealed the Employment of Children Act (1938).
- Infant Milk Substitutes, Feeding Bottles and Infant Foods (Regulation of Production, Supply and Distribution) Act (1992) provides for the regulation of production, supply and distribution of infant milk substitutes, feeding bottles and infant foods with a view to the protection and promotion of breast-feeding and ensuring the proper use of infant foods.
- Guardians and Wards Act (1890) provides that the court must take into consideration the welfare of the child while appointing a guardian.
- Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act (1956) prevents the dissemination of certain publications harmful to young persons. Harmful publication is that which tend to corrupt a young person to commit offences or acts of violence or cruelty.
- Children (Pledging of Labour) Act (1933) prohibits the parent or guardian from pledging the services of a child in return for any payment or benefit.
- Children Act (1960) provides for the care, protection, maintenance, welfare, training, education and rehabilitation of neglected or delinquent children and for the trial of delinquent children in the Union Territories.
- Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act (1956) codified the law relating to minority and guardianship among the Hindus. It says that the welfare of the minor shall be the paramount consideration for a court in the appointment of any person as guardian of a Hindu minor.
- Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act (1956) is the premier legislation for prevention of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation. In other words, it prevents trafficking in women and girls for the purpose of prostitution as an organised means of living.
- Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act (1994) prohibits sex selection before or after conception and prevents the misuse of pre-natal diagnostic techniques for sex determination leading to female foeticide.
- Legal Services Authorities Act (1987) provides for free legal services to children.
- The following legislations prohibit the employment of children in the related occupations and processes:
- Factories Act (1948)
- Plantation Labour Act (1951)
- Merchant Shipping Act (1951)
- Mines Act (1952)
- Motor Transport Workers Act (1961)
- Apprentices Act (1961)
- Beedi and Cigar Workers (Conditions of Employment) Act (1966)
- Code of Criminal Procedure (1973)
- Indian Penal Code (1860)
- Indian Divorce Act (1869)
- Family Courts Act (1984)
- Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act (1956)
- Hindu Marriages Act (1955)
- Indian Succession Act (1925)
- Muslim Women(Protection of Rights on Divorce ) Act (1986)
- Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act (1936)
- Probation of Offenders Act (1958)
- Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (2005)
- Special Marriage Act (1954)
- Employees State Insurance (1948)
- Orphanages and other charitable homes (Supervision and Control) Act (1960)
- Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act (1976)
- Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act (1995).