Right Against Exploitation (Articles 23 and 24)

by | Nov 20, 2023

In the pursuit of justice and equality, the framers of the Indian Constitution embedded fundamental rights to protect citizens from exploitation and ensure their dignity. Articles 23 and 24 stand as formidable guardians against various forms of exploitation, encompassing forced labor, begar, child labor, and human trafficking. 

Article 23 – Prohibition of Traffic in Human Beings and Forced Labor

Article 23 of the Indian Constitution serves as a formidable shield against exploitation, expressly prohibiting various forms of forced labor and human trafficking.

Key points to provide a comprehensive understanding of its significance.

  • Prohibition of Traffic in Human Beings and Forced Labor:
    • Article 23(1) explicitly prohibits the trafficking of human beings and any form of forced labor.
    • Any contravention of this provision is considered an offense punishable by law.
  • Definition of Exploitation:
    • Exploitation, as understood within the context of Article 23, refers to the misuse of others’ services through force or labor without appropriate remuneration.
    • Historical practices, particularly prevalent in marginalized communities, find their roots in various forms of forced labor and begar.
  • Forced Labor and Bonded Labor:
    • Article 23 prohibits forced labor, encompassing situations where individuals are compelled to provide services against their will, even if some remuneration is provided.
    • It unequivocally declares ‘bonded labor’ unconstitutional, denoting situations where a person is forced into service due to an unredeemable loan or debt.
  • Coercion and Unconstitutional Practices:
    • The Constitution deems any form of coercion unconstitutional, explicitly prohibiting the forced employment of landless persons and the compelling of helpless individuals into prostitution.
    • Article 23 extends its protection not only against the State but also against exploitation by private citizens.
  • Trafficking and Illicit Activities:
    • Article 23 renders trafficking unconstitutional, covering the buying and selling of individuals for illegal and immoral activities.
    • The inclusive terms ‘forced labor’ and ‘traffic’ broaden the scope of the article beyond the explicit mention of ‘slavery.’
  • State Obligation and Positive Actions:
    • The State is under obligation to protect citizens from exploitation, necessitating punitive action against perpetrators and treating such acts as criminal offenses.
    • Positive actions to eradicate exploitation from society are mandated, highlighting a commitment to eliminating these societal evils.
  • Parliamentary Authority (Article 35):
    • Article 35 empowers the Parliament to enact laws addressing and penalizing acts prohibited by Article 23.
    • This ensures a legal framework for addressing offenses related to human trafficking and forced labor.
  • Compulsory Service for Public Purposes (Article 23(2)):
    • Article 23(2) clarifies that the State can impose compulsory service for public purposes, provided there is no discrimination based on religion, race, caste, or class.
    • Compulsory services such as conscription to the armed forces are deemed constitutional.
  • Enacted Laws Pursuant to Article 23:

Laws such as the Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Girls Act, 1956, and the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, have been enacted to combat exploitation

Article 24 – Prohibition of Employment of Children in Factories, etc.

Article 24 of the Indian Constitution embodies a commitment to safeguard the innocence and well-being of children by prohibiting their employment in hazardous industries.

Key aspects of Article 24-

  • Prohibition of Employment Below Fourteen:
    • Article 24 expressly prohibits the employment of children below the age of fourteen in factories, mines, or hazardous industries.
    • The provision recognizes the vulnerability of children and seeks to shield them from exposure to harmful working conditions.
  • Exception for Non-Hazardous Work:
    • While hazardous employment is strictly forbidden, Article 24 does not outright ban the employment of children in non-hazardous work.
    • This allows children to engage in work that does not pose risks to their health, well-being, or overall development.
  • Legislative Instruments Implementing Article 24:
    • The Factories Act, 1948, is a seminal legislative instrument setting a minimum age limit for the employment of children in factories. Amendments in 1954 restricted nighttime employment for those under 17.
    • The Mines act of 1952 complements Article 24 by prohibiting the employment of individuals under the age of 18 in mines.
  • Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986:
    • A landmark law enacted to address the pervasive issue of child labor in India.
    • Defines a child as an individual who has not completed their 14th year, outlining specific occupations and processes where their employment is prohibited.
  • Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016:
    • Represents a significant stride forward by completely forbidding the employment of children below 14 years.
    • Imposes stricter penalties for violations, reinforcing the commitment to eradicate child labor.
  • Inclusive Provisions for Adolescents:
    • The 2016 amendment goes beyond the prohibition of child labor, also banning the employment of individuals aged 14 to 18 in hazardous occupations and processes.
    • Stricter punishments for violators act as a deterrent, emphasizing the seriousness of protecting adolescent workers.
    • Notification of rules in 2017 provided a comprehensive framework for prevention, prohibition, rescue, and rehabilitation of child and adolescent workers.
    • Specifies working hours and conditions, safeguarding the well-being of those engaged in family enterprises and artistic pursuits.

The right against exploitation, enshrined in Articles 23 and 24 of the Indian Constitution, serves as a beacon of hope for the vulnerable and marginalized. Legislative measures, such as landmark cases and judicial decisions, have fortified these constitutional provisions, reflecting a commitment to creating a society free from exploitation. As India continues to evolve, it is essential to remain vigilant and proactive in upholding these fundamental rights, ensuring that no citizen is subject to forced labor, begar, or child exploitation.

Also Read: Right to Freedom

Written By Vishakha Khatri

My name is Vishakha Khatri. I am an engineering graduate and a civil service aspirant with a passion for spreading knowledge about Indian polity. I believe that understanding our political system is crucial for every citizen, and I am committed to making this information accessible to everyone in my own easy way. Through my experiences in civil service preparation and my unique perspective as an engineering graduate, I hope to inspire and educate others on the importance of Indian polity.

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