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Rights Against Exploitation (Article 23-24) under Indian Constitution

This research paper is based on Rights Against Exploitation and the related provisions of the Indian Constitution and also the issue of child labour and the various legislations for the protection of child rights. Article 23 and 24 of the Indian constitution enshrines the right against exploitation which guarantees human dignity and protect people from any kind of exploitation. The Indian laws prohibit any act which may harm the freedom and dignity of the person. As many people review themselves as superiors to others.

  1. Right against Exploitation S 23
    Prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labour:
    1. Traffic in human beings and begar and other similar forms of forced labour are prohibited, and any contravention of this provision shall be an offence punishable under law.
    2. Nothing in this article shall prevent the state from imposing compulsory service for public purposes. And in imposing such service the state shall not make any discrimination on grounds only of religion, race, caste, or class or any of them[1].

There are two declarations are included in this article. First, it prohibits the trafficking of human beings, begars, and other similar types of forced labour, and secondly, that any infringement of the prohibition is punishable by law[2].

Human trafficking involves dealing, like selling, allowing or dispose of them like goods of men and women. Trafficking for unethical or other uses would include women and children. To punish actions which, result in the trafficking of men, the Immoral Trafficking of Women and Girls Act of 1956 is a law adopted by the Parliament according to Article 35 of the Constitution. The term "trafficking of human beings" is not directly stated but is undisputedly used. Whoever imports, exports, removes, buys, sells, or dispose of any person like a slave or detains against his/her will as a slave is punishable with imprisonment under the existing laws. By law, bonded labour has also been made illegal.

In Article 23(1), the term used as 'other similar forms of forced labour' has been interpreted in the Calcutta High Court in Dulal Samanta Dist. Magistrate[3] expressed the term as ejusdem generis as it has been used either like trafficking in human beings or begar. The mandatory service is not prohibited for public purposes under Article 23(1) and the State does not discriminate with respect of religion, race, caste, or any of these services as it imposes those services. However, Article 23(2) does not prohibit discrimination on its grounds and the State may exempt women from compulsory service.

When the constitution was adopted, there was hardly any practice of forced labour or slavery in part of India. Since the twenties of this centuries, the National Freedom Movement had been a rallying force against these practices.

However, untouchables were being exploited in several ways by the higher or richer classes in many parts of the country[4]. For instance, in parts of Rajasthan in western India, which was a cluster of Princely States at the time of independence, there was a tradition in which workers who worked for a the certain landowner did not leave it to seek employment anywhere without their permission.

Evil spirits like the devadasi system under which women were devoted to Hindu deities in the name of worship, in some regions of southern and eastern India, gods, worship objects, temples and other religious structures, and under which they were the victims of desire and immorality rather than leading a life of devotion, self-renewal and compassion, were prevalent in their lives.

With the advent of independence, the constitution-makers were eager to proclaim a a war against the people who were indulged in such practices through the constitution as these practices have no place in the new social and political era.

Since, 1982, articles 23 and 24 had become such a potent instrument in the hands of the court to ameliorate the pitiable condition of the poor country.

Article 23(1) states the prohibition of traffic in human beings, begar and other similar forms of forced labour and any breach of this provision is punishable under law. This article not only protects an individual against the state but also against private citizens. This article included three unsocial practices i.e.,
  1. Beggar
  2. Traffic in human beings
  3. Forced labour.
Meaning And Concepts:
  1. Beggar: It means involuntary work without Payment.
    1. This term is used where a person is compelled to work against his will,
    2. A person is also not paid any remuneration for that work.
    It means a person who is in power without giving remuneration for it or a service exacted by the government. Therefore, this practice was abolished through Article 23(1) but was widely prevalent in the Princely States of India before the advent of the Constitution.

    For instance, the case named Kahason Thangkhul v. Simirei Shailei[5] stated that a tradition, though immemorial, according to which a village leader was entitled, on a monthly date, to free labour from each household, for headman and the first settlement in the village, of one male, was proclaimed begar, prohibited by Article 23 (1).

    In another case named, Chandra v. the State of Rajasthan[6], the order of the sarpanch was held clearly against Article 23(1) which forbade begar by the Rajasthan High Court. As the sarpanch ordered each household to send one man along with an iron pan to render free service for the embankment of the village tank.

    In the case name, Dubar Goala v. Union of India[7], it was held that the petitioners who had been licensed as porters in Howrah Railway Station also voluntarily agreed to a two-hour additional labour agreement with the Railway Authority for which some remuneration was to be paid. The High Court of Calcutta concluded that Article 23(1) was not violated.
  2. Traffic in Human Beings: This term is usually used for buying and selling human beings commonly known as slavery as if they are chattels. This article also included the trafficking of women for immoral purposes. Therefore, such practices are constitutionally abolished.
  3. Forced labour: In article 23(1) the words 'other similar form of forced labour' is interpreted as the ejusdem generis. This forced labour has to be related to something with the nature of either trafficking in human beings or begar.

However, Article 23(2) states that the state can impose compulsory services for public services, and this is the only exception in the prohibition against the forced labour.

Similar Forms Of Forced Labour:
For instance, Bonded Labor is forced labour. The State shall ensure that the fundamental rights of people who have been complaining of the violation are not violated and strictly protected if they are of the weak part of humanity and are not willing to fight against a strong and influential opponent who exploits them. It shall also guarantee that private citizens comply with the provisions of the law.

In the case named, Peoples Union for Democratic Rights v Union of India[8] the Supreme Court ruled that, in whatever way that it might manifest itself, Article 23(1) must strike at forced labour. Therefore, it not only prohibited begar but also forbade all unwilling labour, whether paid or unpaid. If labour is imposed upon an individual, any remuneration paid to that person would be irrelevant.

In another case named, Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India[9] the Supreme Court observed, in violation of Articles 21 and 23, that the State's failure to recognize, release, and rehabilitate bonded labour as provided for under the Bonded Labor System Act (Abolition Act) 1976. The Court ruled that Article 23 abolished "bonded labour" a serious form of forced labour.

The imposition of forced labour by a prisoner would be covered only if it could be explained as a requirement of public interest by the prohibition under Article 23 of the Constitution. It is said that hard work on proven offenders is to deter others from committing crimes and to this extent society is safeguarded from the commission of criminal offences by others.

While making the constitution there was a debate held for some exceptions in the original draft, then the constituent assembly headed by D.R. B.R. Ambedkar adopted subclause (2) regarding 'public purposes.

Compulsory services for public purposes [Article 23(2)]:
Article 23(2) is an exception for clause (1) of the article, which enables the state to impose compulsory services for public services. However, the state is prohibited to make any discrimination on the ground of religion, sex, caste, class, or any of them, while imposing the compulsory services for public purposes.

The term "public purpose" covers any cause or objective expressly and essentially concerned with the general interest of the society as opposed to the personal interest of the individual[10]. That will contain the social or economic objectives of Part IV of the Constitution relating to the Directive Principles of State Policy.

For instance, in the case named, Devendra Nath Gupta v. State of M. P[11]., Madhya Pradesh High Court held that it is not contradictory to Article 23 that the service required to be performed by teachers for "public purposes" was to be provided for educational surveys, for family planning, for preparing the voters' list, for general elections, heterogeneous.

In another case named, State of H.P. v. Jarawa[12], it was held that the compulsory service which may be imposed by the state for public purposes under clause (2) of Article 23 shall be held in the existence for the defence and social services of the country.

The state shall pay for the imposed compulsory services. The Constituent Assembly said in its justification that, if compulsory services are required, everyone must be required, and if the state requires service from all, and does not pay anybody, that no great inequity is in place in the State.

When the accused is convicted for rigorous imprisonment and forced to work in his sentence, then the forced labour is entitled to pay suitable compensation by the number of reasonable wages for the work taken by them.

For instance, in the Prison Reforms Case[13] that prisoners have the right, for the work extracted from them through the sentence, to pay reasonable wages. There is no cause that a convict should forfeit the freedom to receive compensation from the State for their labourers extracted from him. The right not to be violated under Article 23 is guaranteed for the citizen.

Thus, this was creating an expression of committing a crime and going to prison is a better mode of living and earning wages by giving them better facilities and payment of wages to them. As a result, this argument advanced by disapproved in the case named, Gurudev Singh v. State of H. P[14]

In the Asiad Workers Case[15], forced labour was prohibited in private contract, the Supreme Court interpreted in liberal terms, the expression of forced labour and ruled that it would be seen as forced labour if wages were paid less than minimum wages for the services of a private contractor.

The court argued that even where a person contracts to perform the service with another person and consideration is given, the person must not be compelled to perform the service by coercion of law or otherwise, for this would be the forced labour.
If a person voluntarily agrees to do work or to do additional work for the remuneration of a certain benefit for a return then there is no forced labour and this was held in the case named, Durbar Goala v. Union of India[16].

Article 23 only prohibits the trafficking of human beings or women for immoral purposes and this was held under Raj Bahadur Case[17].

Employment of Children (Article 24):
The article states that 'no child shall be employed to work in a factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment below the age of fourteen years[18]'.

Article 24 read with DPSP contained in Articles 39(e) and 39(f), protects the health of children below the age of fourteen years[19].

The prohibition mention under Article 24 of the Indian Constitution is enforced against everyone, whether its state or private induvial. In the case named, Peoples Union for Democratic Rights v. Union of India[20], the supreme court held that the construction of a building is hazardous employment where children below the age of fourteen years should not be employed.
India being the federal form of government, both the central government and the state government can legislate the matter of child labour.

Certain acts were made for the protection of child labour which is as follow:
The Mines Act of 1952: The children below the age of 18 years were prohibited from doing work in a mine under this act.

The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986: The children below the age of 14 years were prohibited from doing work in a hazardous occupation which was identified in a list by law. Further, the list was expanded in 2006 and 2008. In 2006, under this provision, the age of the children was also changed through various acts like the Minimum Wages Act 1948, the Plantations Labour Act 1951, the Merchant Shipping Act 1958, and the Motor Transport Workers Act 1961. The government ordered a ban on the employment of children as servants on the recommendations of the Technical Advisory Committee. Further, in 2008, this provision prohibited child labour in a hazardous occupation.

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) of Children Act of 2000: Any act made under this provision was considered a crime, punishable with a term if anyone employs a child in any hazardous employment.

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act of 2009: This act gave the right to the children to have free and compulsory education aged between 6 to 14 years[21]. Also, 25% of seats were allocated for the children in private schools who are physically challenged and those from disadvantaged groups.

Most fundamental rights function as a restriction on the authority of the State and impose on the State negative duties not to interfere with individual liberties. However, there are certain fundamental rights applicable to the world, in particular, Articles 17, 23 and 24. The application against the State of Article 23 is not limited, but as such it strikes everywhere it is encountered and the sweeping effects of Article 23 are thus vast and indefinite.

After laying down the Articles like 23 and 24 of the Indian Constitution which prohibits human trafficking and prohibits child labour, the weaker sections of the society still face such grave problems. The parliament is bound to take legal action against this act and is punishable under the law in the form of bonded labour abolition act of 1976 and the Child Labour Act of 1986 read with the provisions of the Right to Exploitation Act.

There should be awareness spread in the country for the prohibition of child labour and should be advertised in the newspaper and other online resources. Also, should be spread in the villages.

Today, the youth can bring a major change in society only if they want to. Then India can become a nation where citizens can live with the Right to Equality and without the fear of the Right to Exploitation.

In my view, if one's life is subjugating and at the whim of another individual, the concept of equal rights before the law, equal protection of laws and any other fundamental right will have no sense. Although this constitutional right guarantee citizens' security, India still has a long way to go to achieve zero exploitation.

  1. Article 23 of the Indian Constitution
  2. The Constitution of India by D.K. Singh Pg. 139
  3. AIR 1958 Cal 365
  4. Indian Constitutional Law by Prof. M.P. Jain Pg. 1712
  5. (AIR 1961 Manipur 1)
  6. (AIR 1959 Cal 496)
  7. (AIR 1952 cal 496)
  8. (AIR 1982 SC 1473)
  9. (AIR 1998 SC 3164)
  10. Part IV of the Indian Constitution.
  11. (AIR 1983 MP 172)
  12. (AIR 1955 HP 18)
  13. (AIR 1983 Ker 261),
  14. (AIR 1991 HP 76)
  15. 1982 Ind law SC 88,
  16. (AIR 1952 Cal 496)
  17. (AIR 1953 Cal 496)
  18. Article 24 of the Indian Constitution.
  19. Article 39(e) and 39(f) of the Indian Constitution.
  20. (AIR 1982 SC 1473)

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