Right against exploitation (Article 23 & 24 of the Indian Constitution)

10 Jan 2023  Read 2441 Views

The Right Against Exploitation (Article 23 & 24 of the Indian Constitution) is a provision of the Indian Constitution that safeguards each person's dignity. Additionally, it prohibits the following forms of coercion or incentive used to exploit or misuse services:

  • It makes buying and selling human beings as a commodity illegal, known as human trafficking. Additionally, it prohibits the employment of women or girls for immoral purposes.
  • The use of forced labour of any kind, including slavery and bonded work, is forbidden. A practice known as "Begar" calls for a worker to offer his master a free or inexpensive service.
  • The state has been given the authority to require such people to perform the required service in order to halt the practice. It is against the law for the government to discriminate based on religion, colour, race or other factors 
  • Employing minors under 14 in mines, factories, or other hazardous jobs is prohibited.

Many people in our nation are deprived and underprivileged. They could also be the target of abuse from others. Typically, exploitation takes the following shapes:

  • Forced labour that goes unpaid, such as begging
  • Enslavement and human trafficking for the purpose of prostitution and devadasi-like behaviour

Historically, landlords, moneylenders, and affluent individuals have all used forced labour. In reality, there are still several locations where bonded labour is practised, such as brick kiln employment. The Indian constitution outlawed both activities in part III, and bonded labour is now a criminal offence.

Provisions of right against exploitation article 23-24

Our constitution has specific safeguards to prevent the exploitation of weaker groups of society in order to protect against discrimination and foster personal liberty. The clause is written in Article 23.

Article 23 - Prohibits forced labour, beggar labour, and other similar kinds of human trafficking. Any infringement of this clause will result in legal sanctions.

Additionally, Article 24 includes a particular clause designed to stop the exploitation of children.

Article 24 states that no kid under the age of fourteen may be employed in a mine, factory, or in any other dangerous occupation.

Article 23 of the Indian Constitution

The prohibition on forced labour and other related forms of human trafficking is found in Clause 1 of Article 23. Additionally, it declares that any violation of this clause would result in legal consequences. It expressly forbids:

Human trafficking is used to describe the buying and selling of people, typically for the purposes of forced labour, forced prostitution, or sexual enslavement.

Begar: This is a type of forced labour, which is when someone is made to work for free.

More forms of forced labour: This includes additional forms of forced labour where the employee/worker is paid less than the minimum wage. This includes forced labour, where any person is required to work in exchange for meagre pay in order to pay off a debt, forced labour in jail, when prisoners who have been sentenced to hard labour are required to work for nothing, etc.

As a result, Article 23 has a very broad reach because it ensures that no one is coerced into doing anything. For example, it prohibits forcing a landless, underpaid labourer to do gratuitous services. A woman or kid cannot be forced into prostitution, either.

Exceptions under Article 23 (2)

For a public good, such as national security, eliminating illiteracy, or ensuring the efficient operation of public utilities including water, electricity, postage, train, and air services, the state may impose mandatory services.

The state is not allowed to discriminate on the basis of religion, caste, race or class, or any combination of these, while enforcing any such requirement for public reasons. Given that sex is not a prohibited basis for discrimination, women may be excluded from being required to serve in the public sector. The word "class" is only used in a financial context.

However, India has never before in its history passed a similar law at the national level. A legislation that stated that an able-bodied individual could be called in to help with blood impediments existed in Nagaland for a brief period of time.

People’s Union for Democratic Rights v. Union of India (1983)

The SC interpreted the scope of Article 23. The petitioner carefully examined the working circumstances of various individuals employed by Asiad projects. It was found that the workers were highly exploited, received earnings below the minimum rate, and endured an awful working environment. It was a PIL.

J. PN Bhagwati noted that Article 23 has a broad and unrestricted scope. Not only is "begar" prohibited, but all forms of forced labour, regardless of their existence, are also targeted by this article. Forced labour of any kind is never permitted.

No one may be made to do labour or services against their will, even if it is specified in a service agreement.

Under Article 23, the word "force" has a fairly broad definition. It identifies economic situations that force a person to labour against his will for less than minimum wage and physical or legal pressure.

Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. Union Of India (1984)

An organisation called Bandhua Mukti Morcha campaigns against India's pervasive system of bonded labour.

This case is unique in that it was the first time a letter to J.Bhagwati was accepted by the court and treated as a PIL petition. The letter detailed the plight of numerous labourers who were subjected to unbearable and inhumane working conditions in the Faridabad area of Uttar Pradesh.

The court established guidelines for identifying bonded workers and made it clear that it was the responsibility of the state government to locate, free, and rehabilitate the bonded workers.

Article 24 of the Indian Constitution

According to Article 24, a youngster under the age of fourteen is not permitted to work in a factory or perform any other dangerous tasks.

As a result, it is illegal to employ children under the age of 14 in risky or unhealthy jobs that could weaken their mental and physical health.

Peoples Union for Democratic Rights v. Union of India (1982) 

The Supreme Court decided that construction work was a particularly risky job that no one under the age of 14 should perform. The court also emphasised Article 24's horizontal aspect. The prohibition of Article 24 could be applied to both States and private individuals.

MC Mehta Vs. State of Tamil Nadu 

MC Mehta brought the plight of children working in Sivakasi cracker industries to the court. In this instance, the Supreme Court ordered the establishment of a Child Labor Rehabilitation Welfare Fund and demanded that the employer provide the child with a compensation of Rs. 20,000.

Conclusion

A civilised society should not tolerate crimes like child labour and exploitation. We are still far from obtaining a position of zero exploitation, notwithstanding the numerous laws passed in accordance with articles 23 and 24. Instead, India is home to more than 42.7 million uneducated children and 10 million child labourers.

The strongest continue to take advantage of the weaker. Trafficking, bonded labour, and forced labour are still prevalent. The focus should be on spreading knowledge, raising awareness, coordinating the activities of the relevant authorities, raising money, and establishing job opportunities to combat evil.

About the Author: Gurpreet Kaur Dutta | 63 Post(s)

A legal content writer who pursued BBA-LL.B.(H) from Amity University Chhattisgarh. She has a keen interest in corporate and IPR sectors. 

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