India being the biggest democracy in the world was also once a place of
slavery and exploitation for children and adults. Before the enactment of
Constitution of India there were several cases of slavery, exploitation,
widespread practice of forced labor in India. But with the passage of time and
the adoption of the Constitution (Article 23 in the Constitution of India 1949)
these practices were reduced to zero.
But even after these rules and regulations, there were many uncultured practices
towards humanity like in Rajasthan, Northeastern states, some parts of UP,
Bihar, and various other areas where practices like untouchability, human
trafficking forced labors, etc. takes place and society remains shut watching
They are still many places where women are discriminated against because of
their gender and other problems like in some places they were not allowed to
enter during their period weeks but no established reason was given for this
There are many cases of human trafficking in northeastern states where still
govt. is not able to establish the cause and is not able to take concrete steps
in stopping those activities.
Nonetheless, the Constitution of India ensures freedom and nobility to each
person, subsequently, leaving no extension for abuse, bondage, and abuse. Since
1982, be that as it may, these articles have accepted extraordinary importance
and have become strong instruments in the possession of the courts to improve
the pitiable state of the poor in the country.
Article 23- Prohibition of ‘Traffic in Human Beings’ and Forced Labour.
Article 23 explicitly prohibits human trafficking, child labor, untouchability,
and various other activities related to it. Anyone residing in any part of the
country practicing any such kind of activity will be punished according to the
As per Article 23:
- Traffic in individuals and the hobo and other comparable types of
constrained work are denied and any negation of this arrangement will be an
offense culpable as per law.
- Nothing in this article will keep the State from forcing mandatory help
for public purposes, and in overwhelming such assistance the State will not
make any separation on grounds just of religion, race, rank or class, or any
of them. Features of Article 23:
- It protects both citizens and non-citizens against state and private
individuals in terms of exploitation.
- Article 35 authorizes Parliament to make laws for punishing the acts
which are prohibited under Article 23.
- It makes the state responsible for identifying & removing any such kind
of bad practices.
Practices Prohibited By Article 23
Case Law Interpretations
People’s Union for Democratic Rights v. Union of India
The term beggar is of Indian origin. The beggar was a framework where the
government (indeed, the British Government officials) and Zamindars
used to propel the people to convey their products when they moved from one spot
to another spot. It implies compulsory work without installment. Beggar
establishes 2 components
- It is to propel an individual to neutralize his will, and
- he isn't paid any compensation for that work.
- Traffic in human beings:
This term implies selling and buying of people from one person to another,
sometimes from one country to other, as if they are their chattels.
Although, slavery is not expressly mentioned under Article 23 but is
included within the meaning of ‘traffic in human beings. In pursuance of
Article 23, Parliament has passed the Suppression of Immoral Traffic in
Women and Girls Act, 1956, for punishing human trafficking.
- Bonded Labour/ Forced Labour:
Here the labor does not work because of only
physical and mental force but also because of his economic conditions like to
pay off his debts. In this way, he is forced to work and if on time he is not
able to pay off his debts then the work sometimes gets doubles without any
payment or it passes to the next generation. So from here the term Bonded labor
or forced labor came.
This case talked about forced labor. The law prohibits any kind of forced labor
whether it be due to mental, physical, or economical pressure. Also, no person
shall be forced to work against his will under anyone, and doing this will bear
Sanjit Roy v. the State of Rajasthan
In, the State utilized individuals for certain work under the Famine Relief Act.
Individuals were gravely hit by starvation, along these lines the State utilized
them. In any case, these individuals were paid even beneath the base wages on
the ground that the cash is given to help them in gathering the starvation
Bhagwati J. held that:
The payment of wages lower than the minimum wage to a person employed in Famine
Relief Work is violative under Article 23. The State is not allowed to take
undue advantage of the helplessness of such people with an excuse of helping
them to meet the situation of famine or drought.
Deena v. Union of India
It talked about laborers taken from prisons and said taking any kind of labor
work without any reimbursement will amount to forced labor. The state is
entitled to pay wages for the work done by those prisoners in respect of the
Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India
In, the Supreme Court observed that the failure of the State to identify the
bonded laborers, to release them from their bondage, and to rehabilitate them as
envisaged by the Bonded Labour System(Abolition) Act, 1976, violated Articles 21
and 23. the Court held that „bonded labor‟ a crude form of forced labor was
prohibited by Article 23.
M.P. State in Devendra v Nath Gupta
The Madhya Pradesh High Court decided that even though there was no remittance,
instructors were required to offer assistance for "public purposes," including
schooling studying, family arranging, rundown of voters, general races, and so
on that didn't negate Article 23.
Durbar Goala v Union of India
This case holds that there is no forced labor, or beggar if an individual
willingly decides to do work or to do extra work to gain other return benefits.
Raj Bahadur Case
In Raj Bahadur Case, it was held that Article 23 specifically prohibits traffic
in human beings or women for immoral purposes.
No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and
importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.–Dr. Martin
Luther King Jr.
In the current scenario, we all can see the huge involvement of Article 23.
On 24th March 2020, the government of India ordered a nationwide lockdown in
India- starting at midnight to stop the Coronavirus from spreading in the
Lockdown in India has affected a huge number of transient specialists. The
absence of food and fundamental conveniences, loss of business, dread of
obscure, and absence of social help was significant explanations behind battle
in this enormous piece of populace. Because of the lock-down, more than 300
passings were accounted for, with reasons going from starvation, suicides,
fatigue, street and rail mishaps, police mercilessness, and refusal of opportune
Eighty migrant workers died while going back home on the Shramik Special trains. Several incidents, viral videos of police misbehavior,
brutality (beating with cane-charged) on migrant workers, have been reported
from across the country.
Here, the state governments and the central government was not able to handle
the situation properly and systemically violating the fundamental rights of
migrant workers under Article 23. The laborers because of their vulnerable
economic conditions were forced to work under circumstances in which they were
paid much less than the actual amount and were also made to do double the work
without any suitable wages, which impacted their life in a great amount as a
result of which they were not able to manage their daily needs of basic food
items and clothing and the state machinery also failed to look for any better
solution for them.
But still, the laborers who were enrolled in schemes like MNREGA were somehow getting some money so that they can fulfill their basic need
of food items. But most of the laborers of India were not enrolled in this
scheme as a result of which they hardly manage to get any work and if they get
any work to do the payment ere like a drop of water in the desert which instead
of quenching the thirst makes it thirstier.
So, here we come to know that the poor & vulnerable section in our society keeps
on suffering despite having several laws, rules, and regulations related to it.
To stop all such activities as forced labors and human trafficking a
technological based mechanism should be adopted where every labour residing in
any part of the country will have to register themselves there with their full
details of themselves, about his company in which he is working, the salary
amount which he is getting etc. and well-organized check should be maintained
over these activities of registration and further works.
A column should be there where any employee can file any complaint about its
company’s behavior towards him or against any individual with valid reasons and
inquiry should be set up to resolve the problems and if the company is trying to
remove that worker then a valid reason should be given from company side about
the removal, & if the reason is not up to the expectations of the inquiry
committee then the worker should be immediately allotted his previous posts in
the same company. In this way, there can be some reduction in violation of
For preventing Human trafficking, AI-based system should be used at the border
areas which will enable the soldiers to take note of even the smallest area from
where trafficking can take place. Also, a complete population registration
should be done where every individual residing in India must be registered and
this will help in preventing human trafficking activities in India concerning
the neighborhood countries.
So, here is the conclusion and these are the few ways with which we can maintain
the dignity of ARTICLE 23.
Written By: Utsav Singh
- University School of Law and Legal Studies, New
Delhi - First Year (2020) & Second Semester
Email: [email protected]