In this article the author has provided various rights that exist against exploitation. These rights are related to Articles 23 and 24 of the Constitution.
Articles 23 and 24 provide a fundamental right against exploitation. The exploitation of lower castes by the upper caste, practices such as Sati Pratha, the Devadasi system, forced prostitution, human trafficking and the employment of children in dangerous industries are some of the most common cases of exploitation in India.
Articles 23 and 24 of the Indian Constitution explicitly mention the obligation to save people from the scourge of exploitation.
Exploitation is a French word. “Exploitation” means to deprive a person of their guilt by violence or fraud. When a person is denied their share, reward, or remuneration for their contribution of labor and service to the production of wealth, it is called exploitation.[i] Marx combines exploitation with added value. It is a phenomenon of enjoying the fruits of labor without completing any of the tasks of the labor.
Article 23: Prohibition of trafficking in human beings and forced labor
Article 23 (1) prohibits three aspects of exploitation:
1. Human trafficking
3. Forced labor
and stipulates that any violation of such a prohibition constitutes a criminal offense.
Under Article 35, Parliament has the power to enact a law that provides for the punishment of all acts prohibited under Part III of the Constitution.
To exercise this power, Parliament has passed several laws prohibiting forced labor, begging and human trafficking. Laws passed by Parliament under Article 23:
A. The Suppression of Immoral Intercourse Among Women and Girls Act, 1956
B. Bound Labor System Act (Abolition), 1976
It means selling and buying people primarily for sexual slavery, forced prostitution, or forced labor. Slavery is not explicitly mentioned in Article 23, but is included in the sense of the term “intercourse with people”.
It means forcing a person to work for no pay. A person is forced to work against his will.
Other forms of forced labor
It is considered forced labor when the minimum wage is paid. This article also renders “debt bondage” unconstitutional. Debt bondage is when a person is forced to offer services from a loan / debt that cannot be repaid.[ii]
The Supreme Court of Calcutta in Dulal Samanta v Dist. magistrate[iii] Interpretation of the Term – Other similar forms of forced labor meant that the term ejusdem generis should be interpreted and should be either intercourse with people or begar.
The ban on human movement is absolute, but the ban on forced labor is subject to an exception under Article 23 (2).
ARTICLE 23 (2)
The state can introduce mandatory services for public purposes such as national defense, the eradication of illiteracy or the smooth operation of public utilities such as water, electricity, postage, rail and air services.[iv]
By making such a provision binding for public purposes, the state cannot discriminate on the basis of religion, race, caste, or class, or any of them. Sex is not a prohibited ground of discrimination that suggests that women could be exempted from public service. The term class is used in a purely economic sense.
In India, however, there is still no such law at a central level in its history. For a short time in Nagaland there was a law that said that if a person capable of blood was disabled, a person could be called to the army.
Key judgments on rights against exploitation (Article 23)
1. People’s Union for Democratic Rights against Union of India AIR 1983 SC 1473 [v]
The Supreme Court interpreted the scope of Article 23. The petitioner examined the working conditions of various people who were employed in Asiad projects. The workers were found to be severely exploited, not receiving a minimum wage, and exposed to an inhumane work environment. PIL has been submitted.
J. PN Bhagwati noted that the scope of Article 23 is broad and unlimited. Not only is it “begar” that is forbidden, but this article applies to forced labor in whatever form. Any form of forced labor is prohibited.
Nobody should be forced to provide labor or services against their will, even if this is mentioned in a service contract.
The word “violence” in Article 23 has a very broad meaning. It not only includes physical or legal violence, but also recognizes economic circumstances that compel a person to work against their will on less than the minimum wage.
2. Sanjit Roy v Rajasthan State AIR 1983 SC 328 [vi]
In this case, the state employed people to build roads. Their work was allowed under the Famine Relief Act. These workers were paid far less than the minimum wage. It has been argued that this payment of wages below the minimum wage is in breach of Article 23.
The court ruled that the state should not inappropriately exploit people’s helplessness to help them cope with a situation of famine or drought.
The court found that they must be paid fairly for the work they exert and sweat in, which benefits the state.
3. Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India, AIR 1984 SC 802 [vii]
Bandhua Mukti Morcha is an organization that works against the system of bound labor that prevails in India.
This case is special in that it was the first time the court accepted and dealt with a letter written to J. Bhagwati as a petition for PIL. The letter described the ordeal of large numbers of workers in UP’s Faridabad district who worked there inhuman and unbearable conditions.
The court established guidelines for the identification of forced laborers, pointing out that it was the state government’s duty to identify, release and rehabilitate the forced laborers.
Article 24 – Prohibition of employing children in factories, etc.
Article 24 must be read together with A. 39 (e) and A. 39 (f) of the DPSP, which provides for the protection of the health and strength of children and that the tender age of children should not be abused.
Article 24 prohibits the employment of children under the age of 14 in a factory, mine, or other hazardous occupation.
The Supreme Court in People’s Union for Democratic Rights versus Union of India (AIR 1982 SC 1473) [viii] believed that construction was such a dangerous occupation that children under the age of fourteen should not be employed. The court also pointed to the horizontal nature of Article 24. The prohibition of Article 24 could be enforced against anyone, whether state or private.
in the MC Mehta versus Tamil Nadu State [ix] – MC Mehta brought the plight of the children who work in Sivakasi cracker factories to court. In this case, the Supreme Court directed the establishment of the Child Labor Rehabilitation Welfare Fund and ordered the employer to pay Rs. 20,000 as compensation for each child.
India is also a signatory to the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child[x] Article 32 of the convention provides that each state party to the convention protects children from economic exploitation and dangerous work. India ratified the convention in 1999. In compliance with the obligation under Article 24 and international instruments, Parliament has passed various laws against the Convention Child labor– –
Factories Act 1948; Mines Act, 1952; The Bidi and Cigar Workers (Employment Conditions Act), 1966; the Apprenticeship Act of 1961; the employment of Children act 1938;; and other similar acts.
Amendment Law on Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation), 2016[xi]Amendment to the Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986.
The Amending Act prohibited the employment of children under the age of 14 in all professions and industries except those run by the child’s own family. Before the change, it was completely legal for children under the age of 14 to do housework.
A total ban on the employment of child labor (ie anyone under the age of 14) has been imposed in any facility, whether it is dangerous or not. A child is only allowed to work to help the family in the family business after school or during the holidays.
India eventually ratified International Labor Organization Convention No. 182[xii] which deals with the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labor and provides that no child may be employed in a dangerous occupation. Interestingly, India is one of the last countries to ratify the convention. However, the law introduced a new category called youth, which includes people between the ages of 14 and 18. The change allows young workers to be employed except in hazardous processes or occupations.
The number of dangerous occupations and processes has been reduced from 83 to just 3 mining, explosives, and occupations mentioned in the 1948 Factory Act. This allows children to be employed in all other dangerous industries such as construction, asbestos, brick kilns, and glass factories and garbage collection.[xiii]
It provides for the establishment of the rehabilitation fund for child and youth work[xiv]in which all amounts of the penalty must be realized. This determination was derived from the judgment of MC Mehta.
The amendment has been widely criticized for being toothless and rather than eradicating child labor from its roots, it is more likely to give child labor a place to flourish.
The existence of practices such as exploitation and child labor is a flaw in a civilized society. The truth remains that despite numerous laws enacted under Articles 23 and 24, we are still a long way from achieving zero exploitation status. Instead, there are 10 million child laborers in India and more than 42.7 million children are out of school [xv].
The exploitation of the weak by the strong continues unabated. Forced labor, bondage and human trafficking persist. The focus needs to be on education, awareness raising, concerted efforts by the authorities concerned, generating money and creating employment opportunities to contain the evil.