Right Against Exploitation

Child labor involves, a) children being enslaved b) children separated from their families c) children exposed to serious hazards and illness d) children forced to tend for themselves on the streets of large cities. The issue of poverty has a major influence on the employment of children. The employment of children has become a common practice in every country. One of the basic issues of ILO is the prohibition of employment of children. The total abolition of child labor is specifically noted in its Preamble. It aims to protect young persons and children from long hours of work and hazardous occupations. Those who labor as slaves also suffer frequent beating and other cruel treatment. Cote d’Ivoire’s child laborers are robbed not only of their freedom but also of the right to basic education. In a country where more than half the population is illiterate, basic education of “cocoa children” takes on an even more critical significance for Cote d’Ivoire’s future.


There are two articles of the Constitution which guarantee the right against exploitation. They have described below: The Indian laws prohibit slavery and any act which harms the dignity and freedom of a person. Yet some people still view themselves as superior to others. As a result, many people are forced to do work against their will at cheap rates and millions of women and children become victims of human trafficking. In 2016, there were 18.3 million people in modern slavery in India according to the Global Slavery Index. [i]The 2018 Global slavery survey report stated that there has been a further addition of forced sexual exploitation and child labor in the country. Child labor who are deprived of human rights is worth mentioning. These children work in residential, commercial, and industrial establishments for material contribution to the income of the family. The issue of poverty has a major influence on the employment of children. The employment of children has become a common practice in every country.

The Right against exploitation enshrined in Article 23 and 24 of the Indian Constitution guarantees human dignity and protect people from any such exploitation. Thus, upholding the principles of human dignity and liberty upon which the Indian Constitution is based There are two articles of the Constitution which guarantee the right against exploitation. They are described below.

Article 23 – Prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labor

Article 23(1): Traffic in human beings and the beggar and other similar forms of forced labor are prohibited and any contravention of this provision shall be an offense punishable by the law.

Article 23(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.

  • Exploitation implies the misuse of others’ services by force and/or labor without payment.
  • Many marginalised communities in India were forced to engage in manual and agricultural labor without any payment.
  • Labour without payment is known as begar.
  • Article 23 forbids any form of exploitation.
  • Also, one cannot be forced to engage in labor against his/her will even if remuneration is given.
  • Forced labor is forbidden by the Constitution. It is considered forced labor if the less-than-minimum wage is paid.
  • This article also makes ‘bonded labor’ unconstitutional.
  • Bonded labor is when a person is forced to offer services out of a loan/debt that cannot be repaid.
  • The Constitution makes coercion of any kind unconstitutional. Thus, forcing landless persons into labor and forcing helpless women into prostitution is unconstitutional.
  • The Article also makes trafficking unconstitutional.
  • Trafficking involves the buying and selling of men and women for illegal and immoral activities.
  • Even though the Constitution does not explicitly ban ‘slavery’, Article 23 has a wide scope because of the inclusion of the terms ‘forced labor’ and ‘traffic’.
  • Article 23 protects citizens not only against the State but also from private citizens.
  • The State is obliged to protect citizens from these evils by taking punitive action against perpetrators of these acts (which are considered crimes), and also take positive actions to abolish these evils from society.
  • Under Article 35 of the Constitution, the Parliament is authorized to enact laws to punish acts prohibited by Article 23.
  • Clause 2 implies that compulsory services for public purposes (such as conscription to the armed forces) are not unconstitutional.
  • Laws passed by the Parliament in pursuance of Article 23:
    • Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Girls Act, 1956
    • Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976

Article 24 – Prohibition of employment of children in factories, etc.

Article 24 says 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.”

  • This Article forbids the employment of children below the age of 14 in any hazardous industry or factories or mines, without exception.
  • However, the employment of children in non-hazardous work [ii]is allowed.
  • Laws that were passed in pursuance of Article 24 in India.
  • The Factories Act, 1948
  • This was the first act passed after independence to set a minimum age limit for the employment of children in factories. The Act set a minimum age of 14 years. In 1954, this Act was amended to provide that children below the age of 17 could not be employed at night.
  • The Mines Act of 1952
  • This Act prohibits the employment of people under the age of 18 years in mines.
  • The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986
  • This was a landmark law enacted to curb the menace of [iii]child labor prevalent in India. It described where and how children could be employed and where and how this was forbidden. This Act designates a child as a person who has not completed his/her 14th year of age. The 1986 Act prohibits the employment of children in 13 occupations and 57 processes.
  • Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Amendment Act, 20This Act completely forbids the employment of children below 14 years of age. It also bans the employment of people between the ages of 14 and 18 in hazardous occupations and processes. Punishments to violators of this law were made stricter by this amendment act. This Act allows children to be employed in certain family occupations and also as artists.
  • Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Rules, 2017
  • The government notified the above Rules in 2017 to provide a broad and specific framework for prevention, prohibition, rescue, and rehabilitation of child and adolescent workers. [iv]The Rules clarified on issues concerning the employment of family enterprises and also provides safeguards for artists in that the working hours and conditions are specified.

Prohibition of Traffic in Human Beings and Forced Labour 

Clause 1 of Article 23 prohibits the trafficking of human beings, begar any similar form of forced labor. It also states that any contravention of this provision is punishable by the law. It explicitly prohibits:

  • Human Trafficking: This refers to the sale and purchase of human beings mostly for sexual slavery, forced prostitution, or forced labor.
  • Begar: This is a form of forced labor which refers to forcing a person to work for no remuneration. 
  • Other forms of forced labor: This includes other forms of forced labor in which the person works for a wage less than the minimum wage. This includes bonded labor wherein a person is forced to work to pay off his debt for inadequate remuneration, prison labor wherein prisoners sent in for rigorous imprisonment are forced to work without even minimum remuneration, etc. 

Hence, Article 23  has a very wide scope by ensuring that a person is not forced to do anything involuntarily.  For instance, It forbids a land-owner to force a landless, poor laborer to render free services. It also forbids forcing a woman or child into prostitution

Peoples Union for Democratic Rights v. Union of India, AIR 1982 SC1943

In the case of People’s Union for Democratic Rights v. Union of India, the petitioner was an organization formed for the protection of democratic rights. It undertook efforts to investigate the conditions under which the workmen employed in various Asiad projects were working. This investigation found out that various labor laws were being violated and consequently public interest litigation was initiated. In the case issues like laborers not given the minimum remuneration as mentioned in the minimum wages act, 1948 and unequal income distribution among men and women were highlighted.

The Supreme Court interpreted the scope of article 23 in the case. The Court held that the word force within this article has a very wide meaning. It includes physical force, legal force, and other economic factors that force a person to provide labor at a wage less than the minimum wage. Hence, if a person is forced to provide labor for less than the minimum wage, just because of poverty, want, destitution, or hunger, it would be accounted for as forced labor.

The Court also clarified the meaning of “all similar forms of forced labor” as mentioned in article 23 of the Constitution of India. It said that not only begar but all forms of forced labor are prohibited. This means that it would not matter if a person is given remuneration or not as long as he is forced to supply labor against his will.

State v. Banwari, AIR 1951 All. 615

In the case of State through [v]Gokul Chand v Banwari and Ors., the appellants including 5 barbers and 2 dhobis contested against Section 3 and Section 6 of U. P. Removal of Social Disabilities Act, 1947, under which they were convicted. Section 3 of the act laid down that no person can refuse to render any service to another person on the ground that he belongs to a scheduled caste. Provided that such service lies in the ordinary course of business. The appellants contested that this Section was violative article 23 of the Constitution. But the Court disagreed and held that making it illegal for a person to refuse service to some person just because that person belongs to scheduled cases does not equate to begar.


The stronger have exploited the weak since ancient ages. In India as well the practice of exploitation is largely present. There are many areas in the country where “untouchables” were being exploited in several ways by the higher castes and richer classes. For instance, in many industries in India like brick kilns, Carpet weaving, embroidery, etc, many Bangladeshi and Nepali migrants are being subjected to forced labor. This is seen as employers recruit them through fraud and debt bondage. Such exploitation must be eradicated. 

Also, Child labor is a bane for the nation. It is a shameful practice that harms the welfare and development of the children as well as the entire nation. India still has approximately 30 million child laborers. This is horrifying and It is high time to eradicate this horrible practice and punish the offenders.


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