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Right Against Exploitation

  • Last Updated : 29 Oct, 2021

India is the largest populous democracy in the world today. But, India and its people had faced long-term slavery in the past centuries. India gets rid of the slavery system after the enactment of many acts and bills especially the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The framers of the Indian Constitution provide the Right against Exploitation under Articles 23 and 24 to abolish and prohibit such activities. As the Indian Constitution provides dignity and liberty to every citizen of India which is a blockage for exploitation. 

Article 23 of the Constitution deals with the prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labour and Article 24 deals with the prohibition of the employment of children in factories etc.

Exploitation means the misuse of any person or any services by the use of criminal force or without free consent. And exploitation is violative of the basic concept of our constitution, and also opposes the Directive Principle of State Policy given under the Constitution.

Prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labour:

Article 23(1) provides that traffic in human beings and beggars and other forms of forced labour are prohibited and any such offense or such illegal activity of this provision shall be treated as an offense and will be punishable by the law.

Article 23(2) provides that the State can impose compulsory service for public purposes. Thus, article 23 prohibits the practices i.e. Traffic in human beings, begar, Forced labour, etc.

Traffic in human beings:

Traffic in human beings means buying and selling human beings as goods for illegal or immoral activities or other purposes. Traffic in women for immoral purposes is also covered by this expression. Parliament has enacted the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 in order to suppress immoral traffic in women and children.

Begar:

Begar means work without payment and the free consent of a person. It is a labour service that a person is forced to give without receiving any remuneration for it. This practice was widely prevalent in erstwhile princely States in India. Such evil practices were abolished by Article 23(1).

Forced Labour:

The expression’ other forms of forced labour used in article 23(1) are to be interpreted as the same kind to the words begar and traffic in human beings. It means that the kind of forced labour contemplated under this Article must be similar to the form of beggar and traffic in human beings. Supreme Court has given expansive interpretation to the term forced labour.

In the case: People’s Union for Democratic Rights v. Union of India, 1982 Supreme Court held that Article 23 is constituted to prohibit or abolish any form of forced labour or any labouring without consent of the person even if it is contractual. Court has insisted that every form of forced labour is within the inhibition of Article 23 and it makes no difference whether the person who is forced to give his labour or services to another is remunerated or not. Even if the remuneration is paid, the labour supplied by the person would be hit by Article 23 if it is supplied against the will of the labour i.e. as a result of force or compulsion. The court said that the word ‘force‘ must be construed to include not only physical or legal force but also force arising from the compulsion of economic circumstances. The court said that the word ‘force’ must be construed to include physical or legal force and it can also arise from the compulsion of economic circumstances. Therefore, a person who provides labour or service to another for less than minimum wage also amounts to forced labour.

In Sanjit Roy v. the State of Rajasthan, 1983 Supreme Court held that payment by the State of wages lower than minimum wages to persons employed on famine relief work was held to be invalid under Article 23.

In Deena v. Union of India, 1983, Supreme Court held that labour taken from prisoners without paying proper remuneration is violative of Article 23.

Bonded labour system :

This is also a form of forced labour known as Bandhua Majdoor. Under this system, a person is bound to provide labour to another for years and years until a debt is wiped out. It was made to enable the exploitation of weaker sections of people by socially and economically stronger sections. Parliament has enacted the Bonded labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 to tackle the problem of bonded labour.

Supreme Court in Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India, 1984 held that bonded labour is unconstitutional under Article 23. Court held that bonded labourers must be identified and released from the shackles of bondage so that they can assimilate themselves into the mainstream civilized society.

In Neerja Choudhary v. State of Madhya Pradesh, 1984, Supreme Court held that whenever it is found that any workman is forced to provide labour for no remuneration or nominal remuneration, the presumption would be that he is bonded labour unless the employer proves otherwise. The Court also emphasized that the failure on the part of the government in implementing the provisions of Bonded labour system(Abolition) Act,1976 would be a clear violation of Articles 21 and 23 of the Constitution.

Compulsory service for public purposes:

Article 23(2) provides that State can impose compulsory service for public purposes. By providing such services the State shall not discriminate on any ground provided under article 15 of the Constitution. The State is not obliged to pay for compulsory services imposed. Therefore, the government demanding services of teachers in the census, election, family planning duties, etc. are not violative of Article 23(1).

Prohibition of employment of children in factories etc:

Article 24 provides that no child below the age of fourteen years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment. Provision made under Article 24 provides that no person can force a child below the age of 14 years into a hazardous activity or any as like employment.

In People’s Union for Democratic Rights v. Union of India, AIR 1982 SC 1943, Supreme Court held that construction work is dangerous work, and employment of children (below the age of 14 years) in the construction industry amounts to a violation of Article 24.

In M.C. Mehta v. State of Tamil Nadu, AIR 1997 SC 699, Supreme Court held that children below the age of 14 years cannot be employed in any hazardous industry, mines, or other works. The court laid down guidelines to protect the economic, social, and humanitarian rights of children. The court emphasized that the employers should comply with the provisions of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986.

In Bandhua Multi Morcha v. Union of India, AIR 1984, Supreme Court observed that it is incumbent upon the State to provide facilities and opportunities as enshrined under Article 39(e) and (f) of the Constitution. The state should prevent the exploitation of childhood due to indigence and vagary.

Parliament has enacted the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 which prohibits the employment of children in certain occupations. Apart from it, certain other legislations like Apprentice Act, 1961, Factories Act, 1948, and Mines Act, 1952 prohibit employment of children below the age of 14 years.

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