Right Against Exploitation (Article 23 And 24) under Indian Constitution with landmark cases

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There was no connection to slavery or the prevalent custom of forced labour in every region of India when the Constitution was implemented. The National Independence Movement has been a driving power against such policies since the twenties of this century.

In the West of India, which during the pre-Independence days was the Princely States cluster, for example , workers who were working for a specific tenant were not permitted to leave him for employment elsewhere. There were, however, several areas of the country where the “untouchables” had been exploited by the higher class and the rich classes in various ways.

This restriction was very often so severe, and the dependence of the workers on the master was so absolute that in fact he was a slave. These practices were supported by local law.

Evils like the Devadase system, which dedicated women in the name of religion, to Hindu deities, to idols, worship objects, temples, and other religious institutions, under which women were the victims of lust and immorality in certain parts of southern and western India, instead of living a life of dedication, self-renunciation, and piety.

Article 23 in The Constitution Of India 1949

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 in accordance with law.

(2) Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from imposing compulsory service for public purpose, 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.

Article 24 in The Constitution Of India 1949

Prohibition of employment of children in factories, etc

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 Provided that nothing in this sub clause shall authorise the detention of any person beyond the maximum period prescribed by any law made by Parliament under sub clause (b) of clause ( 7 ); or such person is detained in accordance with the provisions of any law made by Parliament under sub clauses (a) and (b) of clause ( 7 ).

Article 23(1) does not impinge on a law that punishes a individual for failing to provide personal services on the grounds of caste or class alone.

1. Traffic in human beings: the term ‘human trafficking’ generally referred to as slavery means that sex beings are purchased and sold as though they were chattels, and this custom is legally abolished.

The term often refers to trafficking in women for unethical reasons

2. Forced Labour: Exusdem generis could be translated as “all types of forced labour in a related way” in Article 23(1). The type of “forced labour” discussed in this Report may have something to do with human or beggar trafficking.

There is one loophole to the ban against forced labour. The State can enforce a public mandatory service pursuant to Article 23(2).

The Supreme Court ruled in the Peoples Union for Democratic Rights v Union of India[1] that Article 23(1) targets forced labor, as it can manifest. It therefore prevented begar as well as all unwilling jobs, whether paying or not, from being overwhelmed. If a individual is compelled to operate, the sum of money received shall be immaterial.

Article 23 of the Constitution forbids slave labor and requires the crime to be punished in compliance with rule 4 for the violation of that prohibition. Although the prohibition against slavery is total, there is one exception that is made to the prohibition against forced labor; that is, if that service is required for public purposes the State can enforce a mandatory service.

After the constitution, the initial draft and the Constituent Assembly, led by Dr. B.R., is regarded as any exception. Throughout the sense of “pubic intentions,” Ambedkar has followed subclause (2).

In Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India[2], the Supreme Court observed that the State was in violation of Articles 21 and 23 when it refused to recognize the bonded workmen, free them from slavery or rehabilitation of them as contemplated under the 1976 Bonded Labour System[Abolition] Act.

Article 23 of the Constitution provides for forced labor and requires any violation of such a prohibition to be a criminal crime pursuant to law Although banning trafficking of human beings is absolute, the prohibition of force-work is subject to one exception, that is to say, if such service is required for a public reason, the State may enforce a compulsory service.

In the initial draft and after complete discussion, the Constituent Assembly led by Dr. B. R. was found to be an anomaly to the constitution. Ambedkar accepted clause (2) on “pubic intentions.”[3]

Article 23 (2)

Clause (2), except clause ( 1), requires the State to enforce a compulsory public service. The State shall, however, not discriminate on the basis of faith, ethnicity , sex, gender or any other, when enforcing such a compulsory facility.

The word ‘public intent’ encompasses any goal or objective which explicitly and fundamentally concerns the common good and not the specific good of individuals. The priorities set forth in section IV of the Constitution concerning the Regulatory Concepts of Public policy would involve social or economic goals.

M.P. State in Devendra v Nath Gupta[4]. The Madhya Pradesh High Court ruled that, even though there was no allowance, teachers were expected to provide a service for “public purposes,” including education surveying, family planning, list of electors, general elections, etc. that did not contravene Article 23.

The High Court in Calcutta, Dulai Shamanta v District Magistrate[5], Howrah observed that it was not prohibited for a public benefit, because it was not begar or trafficked by the State or was not enforced by the Constitution of Article 23.

In the same way, Durbar Goala v Union of India [6]holds that there is no forced labor, or begar, if a individual willingly decides to do work or to do extra work to gain other return benefits.

In Raj Bahadur Case [7]it was held that Article 23 specifically prohibits traffic in human beings or women for immoral purpose.

Article 24

This article, as laid down in Articles 39(e) and 39(f) of the State Principles of Directive, allows for the security of children’s safety and power under the age of 14.

The Supreme Court in Peasants Union for Democratic Rights v. Union of India (AIR 1982 SC 1473) ruled that building work was unsafe in areas where children under the age of fourteen should not be working, and that the prohibition inherent in Article 24 should be extended to everyone, including State or private persons, unambiguously and unambiguously.

India is a federal republic, so child slavery is a subject that can be legislated over by the central and state governments. The most important regional regulatory changes are: the 1948 Factories Legislation: The Act bans the work in factories of children under the age of 14. The law also sets out guidelines for who should be working in a business of pre-adults aged 15-18 years.

In M. C. Mehta v. Tamil Nadu Government, M. Public Prosecutor. C. Mehta has submitted a PIL pursuant to Article 32 and has told the Court how Sivakasi Cracker Factories is engaged in the girls. While the Constitution bans the slavery and recruitment of children pursuant to Article 24, it also requires the State to provide them in compliance with Article 41 with free and mandatory schooling, although a substantial number of children are already employed in unsafe areas. In spite of several State Governments banning child labor, the problem of child labour persisted unsolved and is every day a danger to society, notwithstanding the Constitutional requirements and numerous legislation. It was held by Hansaria J. that-

“The children below 14 years cannot be employed in hazardous activities and state must lay down certain guidelines in order to prevent social, economic and humanitarian rights of such children working illegally in public and private sector. Also, it is violative of Article 24 and it is the duty of the state to ensure free and compulsory education to them. It was further directed to establish Child Labour Rehabilitation Welfare Fund and to pay compensation of Rs. 20,000 to each child.”

In People’s Union for Democratic Rights v. Union of India, some people including few children below the age of 14 were employed in the construction work of the Asiad Project in Delhi. It was contended that the Employment of Children Act, 1938 was not applicable in the case of children employed in construction work since construction industries were not specified in the schedule of the Children Act. Bhagwati J. held that-

“The contention given by the Government is not at all acceptable. The construction work is hazardous employment and therefore, the children below 14 years must not be employed in the construction work even if the construction work is not specifically mentioned under the schedule of the Employment of Children Act, 1938. The State Government is advised to take immediate necessary steps in order to include the construction work in the schedule of the Act and to ensure that Article 24 is not violated on any part of the country.”


The poorer parts of society continue suffering some severe problems under Articles 23 and 24 of this Convention against trade in and child labor. Such actions are constitutionally prohibited by statute, as well as the ground rules and requirements laid down in the Protection to Slavery Legislation, which are also protected by judicial proceedings in Parliament in the context in Slave Labor Emancipation Act of 1976 which Child Labour Act of 1986.

They must all be conscious that child trafficking is unethical and this recognition will not only be limited to media commercials. This will be applied to the towns. For poor women and girls, groups of women should be formed. I believe that if we listen, we, the young, will make a huge difference. That is the only way for India to become a nation in which all its citizens live equal lives without fear of exploitation.

I feel that if one’s life were subject and at the whim of another individual, the concept of equality before law, fair law rights, and any other basic right in the matter will have little sense. Whilst this constitutional right guarantees the security of the government’s people , India also has a long way to go towards zero oppression.

[1] AIR 1982 SC 1473

[2] AIR 1998 SC 3164

[3] De, D. J. The Constitution of India,1179

[4] AIR 1983 MP 172

[5] AIR 1958 Cal 365

[6] AIR 1952 Cal 496

[7] AIR 1953 Cal 496

Author- Pragya Jaishwal (Symbiosis Law School, Noida)

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