Several Fundamental Rights have been guaranteed under Part III of the Indian Constitution. One of those is right against exploitation. This Fundamental Right is provided under Articles 23 and 24 of Part III of the Constitution, whereby it protects the citizens as well as non-citizens from being exploited in any manner.
Let us look at these Articles and learn more about the right against exploitation under the Constitution of India.
Article 23: Prohibition of Traffic in Human Beings and Forced Labour
It also states that any violation of this provision is an offence and the offender is to be punished in accordance with the law.
Article 23 of the Constitution inflicts a responsibility on the state to take steps to eliminate offences of traffic in human beings, Begar and other similar kinds of forced labour.
Meaning of ‘Traffic in Human Beings’
The expression ‘traffic in human beings’ means buying and selling men and women like goods. This also includes the sale and purchase of men, women and children for immoral purposes.
Case Laws Related to Article 23
Let’s have a look at the case laws for a better understanding of Article 23.
Peoples Union for Democratic Rights vs Union of India (1982)
In this case, the Supreme Court has contemplated the scope and ambit of Article 23 in detail. The petitioner was a non-profit organisation inscribed to the defence of democratic rights. It examined the working condition of various workers working in Asiad projects and observed that the workers were subjected to tremendous exploitation. Further, various labour laws were being violated, and hence the PIL was filed against the same.
The Supreme Court held that the word ‘force’ has a very wide meaning. J Bhagwati stated that the word force includes not only physical or legal force but also includes economic occurrences which make a person work against his will on less than the minimum wages. The court further instructed the government to make necessary efforts to punish the private individuals for the violation of Fundamental Rights guaranteed by Article 23.
Another landmark case for Article 23 is:
Sanjit Roy vs State of Rajasthan (1983)
In this case, the state hired many labourers to build a road to alleviate the drought and scarcity circumstances in their area. The labourers were, however, paid less than the minimum wages.
The court held that paying wages lower than the minimum wages to a person employed on famine relief work violates Article 23. It also asserted that the state cannot take advantage of the worker’s helplessness.
Article 24: Prohibition of Employment of Children in Factories, etc.
Children are the most valuable asset of the nation. Hence, the Indian Constitution under Article 24 restricts the employment of children below the age of 14 years in factories and any dangerous or hazardous employment. This provision is actually for the safety of the children’s lives and to protect them from situations that could probably harm their mental or physical strength.
Case Laws Related to Article 24
Let’s look at some case laws for a sounder understanding of Article 24.
People’s Union for Democratic Rights vs Union of India (1982)
In this case, J Bhagwati instructed the state government to take immediate action to include construction work in the Constitution of India’s Schedule and make sure that the Constitutional mandate of Article 24 is not violated in any part of the country.
In pursuance of this, the Employment of Children Act, 1938 and the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, has been enacted.
Labours Working on Salal Hydro Project vs State of Jammu and Kashmir (1984)
In this case, the court held that construction work is hazardous employment and children below the age of 14 should not be employed in this work.