This article has been written by Soumyadutta Shyam. This article analyses in detail Article 23 of the Indian Constitution as well as various related aspects like forced labour, trafficking in humans, the begar system, legislations enacted to achieve the objective of Article 23 and landmark judgements.


Humans exploiting other humans for gain or pleasure is an unfortunate reality of our society. Exploitation of humans has existed since the beginning of recorded history. It exists in various forms like slavery, compulsory labour, sexual slavery, commercial sexual exploitation, sex trafficking etc.

Human trafficking and forced labour are major human rights concerns. Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights restrains slavery or servitude. However, human trafficking and various kinds of forced labour including bonded labour and slavery still exist in various corners of the world including India. Even today, individuals are exploited for personal or commercial benefit. There are various forms of exploitative practices like debt bondage, child labour, domestic servitude, forced prostitution and other forms of servitude where people are forced to provide labour or service against their will. 

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Article 23 of the Indian Constitution forbids traffic in human beings and begar and other similar kinds of forced labour and declares any infringement of this right as a punishable offence. Article 23 comes under Part III of the Constitution and therefore, no individual can be exploited or deprived of their basic human dignity. This provision not only protects the individual against the actions of the State but against private individuals too.

Right against exploitation under Article 23 and 24 of the Indian Constitution

The right against exploitation is one of the fundamental rights enshrined in Part III of the Constitution under Articles 23 and 24 of the Indian Constitution.

Article 23(1) prohibits traffic in human beings, begar and other similar forms of forced labour. This Article declares that any contravention of this provision shall be an offence punishable under law. Clause (2) however, permits the state to impose compulsory services for public purposes provided that in making so it shall not make any discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, class or any of them.

This provision of the Constitution recognises the intrinsic dignity of individuals and emphasises the significance of protecting individual freedom, making sure that no one is subjected to exploitation or degrading conditions of work. The purpose of this provision is to eliminate practices that exploit and repress individuals, especially marginalised sections of society.

Begar system and Article 23 of the Indian Constitution

Begar is strictly forbidden by Article 23. “Begar” means involuntary labour without payment. It is a kind of forced labour in which a person is forced to work devoid of payment. The Begar system of forced labour is known by different names such as ‘Veth’ and ‘Reet’. The roots of this system can be traced back to the pre-historic period when labour was seen as an important item of exchange. The land of the king, his nobles and priests was cultivated by peasants in return for some tenurial rights in land bestowed by the king. As the state became more complex later, the lands of the ruling class were worked by their subjects. Serving the priestly class without any remuneration was considered a religious duty. Villagers also gave free labour in working temple lands. Under the British rule, this system continued and became even more repressive.

A popular movement called the “Coolie-Begar Movement” against the begar system was launched by Badri Dutt Pandey and Hargovind Pant in 1921 in the Kumaon region of present-day Uttarakhand. During the movement the labourers went on strike in January 1921, refusing to carry luggage or to give provisions to the British officials and tourists. With this movement, the people of Kumaon abolished the begar system themselves.

In Dubar Goala v. Union of India (1952), the petitioners who worked as licensed porters at Howrah Railway Station, willingly engaged in an agreement to provide two hours additional work for the railway administration. They were given some remuneration for their two hours of service. They disputed the legality of the agreement and pleaded with the Court to restrict the railway administration from forcing the porters to perform begar or forced labour. The Calcutta High Court ruled that” the petitioners could not be said to be doing begar or forced labour within the meaning of Article 23.” 

The fact that the petitioners had intentionally conceded to do additional work by engaging in a contract for that purpose, dismisses the contention of their work being compulsory labour. There was an absence of any component of coercion or illegality in the system of licences or in acquiring the fees for those licenses. The Railway administration possessed the authority to regulate the use of the station. The petitioners were paid some remuneration for their two hours of service. Also, they get the advantage of the diminished license fee and they were also permitted the privilege of free use of the Railway premises for obtaining their earning. In this situation, the additional work carried out by them was not forced labour within the definition of Article 23(1) of the Constitution.

Trafficking in human beings and Article 23 of the Indian Constitution

Article 23 expressly forbids traffic in human beings. Traffic in human beings connotes the selling and purchasing of men and women as commodities as well as comprises immoral trafficking of women and children for immoral objectives. It is partly because of the hierarchical social organisation and partly because of the patriarchal structure of the society. In furtherance of the objective of this provision, the Parliament has laid down The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 to suppress trafficking in human beings.

Trafficking in humans or human trafficking means forcing a person to provide labour or services, or to engage in commercial sexual acts. It also includes recruitment, transport and trade of humans for exploitation. Men, Women and children of all age groups and from different backgrounds may become targets of this crime. Human traffickers often use violence or deceitful means to entice or force the victims. The purposes of trafficking can be forced labour, organ trade, forced prostitution etc. The victims of trafficking are subjected to inhuman conditions and violence. Though human trafficking is considered a rising global phenomenon, it has a long history. Human traffickers operate across international borders. Some of the root causes of human trafficking are lack of employment opportunities, poverty, wars and natural disasters.

Sex trafficking is a widely prevalent form of human trafficking. Sex trafficking denotes the recruitment, transportation, trade or solicitation of a person with the motive of commercial sexual exploitation. Victims are often deceived, forced or defrauded into trafficking. Sometimes, the victims are sold internationally. Sex trafficking is among the most widespread types of human trafficking. It is a type of modern-day slavery. Every year millions of women and minors are sold in the commercial sex industry. This is one of the fastest-increasing organised crimes in the world. Women and even minor girls are vulnerable to sex trafficking. Minorities and women from impoverished communities are especially susceptible to sex trafficking.

Human trafficking situation in India

Human trafficking is one of the burning socio-legal issues in India. Though, there are many kinds of human trafficking the trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation and domestic work is the most prevalent one. Human traffickers often entice their victims by promising lucrative jobs, which also brings the false promise of independence and freedom for young girls.

The victims of human trafficking are generally from poor marginalised communities. Often women and girls are lured with deceitful assurances of job opportunities; kidnapped or abducted; and in some cases even sold by their relatives, husbands or romantic partners into human trafficking.

India is used as a source, destination and transit by human traffickers. The women, children as well as men are trafficked for coerced labour as well as commercial sexual exploitation. The targets are sold into brothels or as domestic servants, factory workers, beggars and agricultural labourers. Many victims also face forced labour in brick kilns, rice mills and embroidery factories. Women and girls from Nepal and Bangladesh are also smuggled into India for sex trade. Indian women are also sold into the Middle East for commercial sexual exploitation or forced labour. According to the National Crime Records Bureau data, a total of 2,189 cases of human trafficking were filed in 2021 as compared to 1,714 cases in 2020, showing an increment of 27.7 per cent.

Despite the legal prohibitions, trafficking in humans still continues to be a problem in India. This problem needs both attention from national and international authorities as well as awareness at the societal level.

Forced labour and Article 23 of the Indian Constitution

Article 23 forbids other similar forms of forced labour excluding human trafficking and the begar system. Forced labour can be defined as labour carried out involuntarily and under coercion. Forced labour is distinguishable from slavery in that it involves not the ownership of a person but the forcible exploitation of one’s labour. 

Forced Labour exists in almost all regions of the world, in one form or another. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Asia-Pacific has over half of the global figure (15.1 million), and after that Europe and Central Asia (4.1 million), Africa (3.8 million) and the Arab States (0.9 million). When measured with reference to the percentage of the population, forced labour is maximum in the Arab States (5.3 per thousand), after that Europe and Central Asia (4.4 per thousand), the Americas and the Asia-Pacific (both at 3.5 per thousand), and Africa (2.9 per thousand). Despite the fact that Article 8 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights forbids forced or compulsory labour, it still exists in many countries in the world and in many cases undocumented.

In India, socio-economic inequality and the caste system can be blamed for the prevalence of forced labour. Some industries where the worst forms of forced labour exist in India are Agriculture, brickmaking and carpet weaving. The victims of forced labour generally belong to socio-economically disadvantaged communities having low caste status.

The socio-economic exclusion of weaker sections of society and their inability to move out of their group makes them specifically susceptible to forced labour. This is especially true for informal and unregulated sectors. Victims of forced labour are exploited in a number of ways such as non-payment or underpayment for their work, long hours of work and sometimes physical abuse. Poverty and lack of education are also a problem for these labourers.

In State through Gokul Chand v. Banwari (1951), the respondents disputed the legality of the U.P Removal of Social Disabilities Act. The appellants who were barbers and dhobies had declined to shave and wash the clothes of Harijans. They were thus sentenced as per Section 6 of the abovementioned Act. It was ruled that the Act did not breach Article 23. The Court said that when a person is restricted from declining to provide services just for the reason that the person demanding it comes from a Scheduled Caste community, he is not therefore put through forced labour.

Bonded Labour and Article 23 of the Indian Constitution

Criminal litigation

Article 23 forbids the custom of ‘bonded labour’ as it is a type of forced labour within the purview of this Article. Bonded labour is a kind of forced labour in which a debtor undertakes an agreement with the creditor to render services to the creditor without wages or minimum wages in lieu of the debt. It is also called Debt Bondage.

Bonded labour exists in different parts of India even in the present era. Under this system, the debtor or their heirs have to work for their creditor without adequate wages or sometimes no wages. This system has origins in the hierarchical social structure characterised by feudal and semi-feudal systems. As a result of specific types of indebtedness, like customary obligations, forced labour has been prevalent for a long period in our country. Certain economically exploited, vulnerable and disadvantaged classes have been especially victimised by this system. They have to offer compulsory labour to the creditor in return for the debt. There are cases where several generations have to work as bonded labourers to pay off the debt of their ancestors. Bonded labour is a violation of fundamental human dignity. 

The issue of bonded labour is intricately connected to larger socio-economic issues like inadequate economic opportunities, landlessness, irregular and low wages, the poor state of agricultural land, caste-based discrimination as well as an exploitative sharecropping system.

In order to curb the evil practice of bonded labour, The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 was passed. By virtue of this Act, all the bonded labourers have been liberated and discharged from the burden of rendering bonded labour. The duty to repay the bonded debt has also been cancelled because of this legislation.

Compulsory service for public purposes [Article 23 clause (2)] of the Indian Constitution

Clause (2) is an exception to the general principle contained in Article 23. Under this clause, the State has the authority to enforce mandatory service for public purposes. However, while enforcing such mandatory service, the State is not permitted to discriminate based on religion, race, caste, class or such other distinction. For instance, mandatory military service or social services can be enforced since they are neither begar nor traffic in human beings.

In the case of Dulal Samanta v. District Magistrate, Howrah (1958), an order was issued to the petitioner by the District Magistrate for compulsory conscription as a special police officer for a three-month term. The petitioner, however, said that his health was negatively affected by his duty after a few days of service. He requested for exemption from compulsory service on grounds of ill-health. But, again an order was issued for six months of compulsory service. It was without any remuneration. He again defaulted in performing his duties. The petitioner claimed that he was threatened with 20 prosecution cases for failure to perform his duties. He subsequently filed a writ of Mandamus before the Calcutta High Court as per  Article 226 of the Constitution. The petitioner contended that this was an infringement of his fundamental rights under Article 19(1)(g) and Article 23. He asserted that it was forced labour. The Court, however, dismissed his appeal and said that enlistment in the services of the police could not be treated like “begar” or “any similar form of forced labour.” Thus, the notice issued for enlisting a person as a special police officer is not prohibited under Article 23 of the Constitution.

Legislations enacted to achieve the objective of Article 23 of the Indian Constitution 

The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956

The aim of this Act was to restrain the commercial evil of traffic in women, men and children for the reason of prostitution as an organised means of subsistence. The Act is a measure to eliminate the menace of trafficking in humans and was passed in furtherance of the Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Person and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others ratified in New York in May 1950. It is a social legislation with penal and remedial measures. In Vishal Jeet v. Union of India (1990), the Apex Court ruled that the Act deals with not only a social but a socio-economic issue as well. Thus the provisions of the Act are more preventive than penal in nature. In the case of In Re: Ratnamala and Anr. v. Unknown (1961), the Madras High Court observed that it was no doubt true that what is aimed under the Act is not the abolition of prostitutes and prostitution as such and per se make it a criminal offence or punish a woman because she prostitutes herself, the purpose of the enactment was to inhibit or abolish the commercialised vice, namely, traffic in women and girls for the purpose of prostitution as an organised means of living.

The important provisions of the Act are listed below:-

  • Section 3 of the Act, sets out punishment for keeping a brothel or allowing premises to be used as a brothel. Section 3(1) punishes a person who keeps, manages or helps in the management of a brothel to rigorous imprisonment for a period of not less than one year and not more than three years and also with a penalty which may be up to two thousand rupees and in case of subsequent conviction, with rigorous imprisonment which shall for a period not less than two years and not more than five years and also with a penalty with upto two thousand rupees. Section 3(2) provides punishment for any landlord, owner, lessor, tenant or any other person who knowingly uses or allows their premises to be used for prostitution. It prescribes punishment for a period extending up to two years and with a penalty of up to two thousand rupees and if it is subsequent conviction then with rigorous imprisonment which might be up to five years and also with a monetary penalty.
  • Section 5 of the Act, sets out punishment for procuring, inducing or taking a woman or girl for the purpose of prostitution. It stipulates a punishment of rigorous imprisonment for a period of not less than one year and not more than two years and also with a penalty which may be up to two thousand rupees. In case of subsequent conviction the prison term shall not be less than two years and not more than five years and also with a penalty which may be up to two thousand rupees. 
  • Section 6 of the Act, lays down punishment for detaining a woman or girl in a place where prostitution is conducted. It prescribes a punishment of rigorous imprisonment for a period of not less than one year and not more than two years and also with a penalty of up to two thousand rupees. If it is the subsequent conviction the punishment shall be rigorous imprisonment for a period of not less than two years and not more than five years and also with a penalty which may be up to two thousand rupees.
  • Section 10 of the Act is remedial in nature. Section 10(1) provides –
    • A person convicted for the first time for an offence under sub-section (2) of the Act, or under Sections 4, 5, 7 or 8 may after consideration of the age, character, previous conduct and the circumstances in which the offence was committed, be released by the court before which he is convicted on probation for good conduct.
    • A person convicted for the first instance for any offence under Section 7 or 8 may after consideration of the age, character, previous conduct, antecedents and the circumstances in which the offence was committed, also be released with reprimand.

Section 10(2) stipulates that if a female offender is found liable for an offence as per Sections 7 or 8 and the character, age, state of physical and psychological health of the offender and other conditions of the case are such that it is suitable, it shall be valid for the court to pass alternatively an order for detention in a corrective facility for reformation for not less than two years and not more than five years. But, the court shall after giving a chance to the offender to be heard, record reasons for such order.

  • Section 19 is rehabilitative in character. Under Section 19(1) a woman or girl who is engaged in or made to engage in prostitution can make an application to the magistrate within whose jurisdiction she is engaged in or made to engage in prostitution, for an order that she may be placed in a protective home. According to sub-section (2) the magistrate after hearing the applicant and making the necessary inquiry may make an order for the applicant to be placed in a protective home for a period as may be specified in the order.

The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976

The Act was made to eliminate the problem of bonded labour tradition in India. After the commencement of this Act, all the bonded labourers were liberated from the obligations of the bonded labour system. This was a milestone in abolishing the oppressive tradition of bonded labour. The liability of repayment of debt incurred under debt bondage has been suspended and the creditor can no longer compel the worker to pay the debt (Section 6). Any property of the bonded labourer which was captured by landlords and was under mortgage, lien or other encumbrances shall be given back to the labourers and the debt related to the same shall be discharged (Section 7). Any freed bonded labourer cannot be evicted from their residence as consideration for the debt (Section 8).

Minimum Wages Act, 1948

The Minimum Wages Act, 1948 stipulates for full-fledged machinery to fix the minimum rates of wages in the industries stated in the schedule attached to the Act. The Act is a welfare legislation and is an essential measure for the economic upliftment of the workers. The aim of the enactment is to safeguard the interest of industrial workers. By enacting the Minimum Wages Act, the Government has endeavoured to discharge its Constitutional obligation in Article 43 of the Directive Principles of State Policy.

The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970

During the pre-independence era, contract labour was characterised by the poor economic situation of the workers, the casual nature of employment, the absence of job security etc. Thus, The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, of 1970 was enacted to oversee contract labour and to stop the abuse of contract labourers. The aim of the Act was also to provide proper and habitable working conditions. The Act also stipulates for the setting up of Central and State Advisory boards for the regulation of contract labour.

The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986

Even subsequent to passing some laws comprising sections to regulate child labour, it was quickly realised that child labour was an issue. Taking this factor into account attempts were made to regulate the conditions of child labour for the purpose of avoiding exploitation in industries where child labour could not be prevented. The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 revoked the Employment of Children Act, 1938. The most important objective of this Act was to identify more dangerous works and industries with the aim of stopping child labour in these industries and regulating conditions for children in non-hazardous vocations.

The major purposes of the Act are:-

  • To bring conformity in the definition of child in the related laws;
  • To prevent the recruitment of children in some particular occupations and processes;
  • To revise the extent of prohibited industries and vocations by setting out a process;
  • To regulate the conditions of service for children where they are not prevented from working; and
  • To set down punishment for violators.

Landmark judgments surrounding Article 23 of the Indian Constitution

People’s Union for Democratic Rights v. Union of India (1982)

Facts of the case

In this case, a writ petition was brought through a public interest litigation in order to ensure conformation to the provisions of various labour laws in respect of the workmen employed in the construction work of various projects connected with the Asian Games. The issue was brought to the notice of the Supreme Court by the 1st petitioner, which was a social organisation for the protection of democratic rights by letter addressed to Justice P.N Bhagwati. The letter was based on the report of a team of three social scientists who were recruited by the 1st petitioner to investigate the conditions of the workmen engaged in Asiad Projects. As the letter addressed by the 1st petitioner based on the report of the social scientists, it was treated as a writ petition by the Supreme Court. Subsequently, notices were sent to the Union of India, Delhi Development Authority and Delhi Administration.


1. Were the working conditions of the workmen in the Asiad projects in violation of their fundamental rights under Article 23 of the Constitution?

2. Whether the Union of India, Delhi Development Authority and Delhi Administration were liable to ensure compliance of the labour laws by the contractors?

3. Whether the workmen have a cause of action against the Union of India, Delhi Development Authority and Delhi Administration, in case of non-compliance with labour laws by the contractors?


The Supreme Court examined the purview and extent of Article 23 thoroughly. The court ruled that the extent of Article 23 is broad and hits at “traffic in human beings” and “begar and other forms of forced labour” anywhere they are detected. It is not just “begar” that is forbidden by Article 23 but also all other types of forced labour. “Begar” is a kind of forced labour under which a person is forced to work devoid of remuneration. This provision hits at forced labour in whichever guise it may appear since it is in contravention of human dignity opposed to basic human dignity and against fundamental human morals. The system of forced labour is denounced in almost all international instruments dealing with human rights.

All kinds of forced labour whether “Begar” or any other kind, is forbidden by Article 23 and it makes no distinction whether the person who is coerced to give their labour or service to another is given remuneration or not. Despite the fact, that remuneration is being paid, labour or services given by a person would be in contravention of this provision if it is forced labour i.e., involuntary labour performed under coercion. This provision hits at every kind of compulsory labour even if it is the result of a volitional contract. If a person has entered into a contract with another to give service and there is a consideration for that service in the form of repayment of debt or even remuneration he cannot be compelled by force of law or in any other manner to continue to perform that service as it would be forced labour under the purview of this provision. No one can be compelled to provide labour or service against their own volition although it may be under a contract of service. 

The term “force” was elucidated by the Court broadly. Justice Bhagwati said, “The word ‘force’ must therefore be construed to include not only physical force or legal force but also force arising from the compulsion of economic circumstances which leaves no choice of alternatives to a person in want and compels him to provide labour or service even though the remuneration received for it is less than the minimum wage.” Thus a person who gives labour or service to another for remuneration which is below the minimum wage is forced labour under Article 23.

In this case, it was ruled that the subtraction of Re.1 per day by the Jamadars from the wages of the workers hired by the contractor for Asiad Projects in Delhi, because of which the workers did not receive the minimum wage of Rs.9.25 each day was in infringement of Article 23 of the Constitution. The Court instructed the Government to take essential steps for penalising the infringement of the fundamental rights of citizens given by Article 23. 

Sanjit Roy v. State of Rajasthan (1983)

Facts of the case

In this case, a writ petition was filed by the petitioner for redressal of violations of the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 by the Public Works Department of the State of Rajasthan. The Public Works Department was constructing a road close to Tilonia Village in Ajmer District and according to the State Government, it was a part of famine relief work undertaken to provide relief to persons affected by drought and famine conditions. It was known that the minimum wage for a construction worker in Rajasthan was Rs.7 per day. It was contended on behalf of the petitioner and not disputed by the State that the notification fixing the minimum wage of Rs.7 per day did not fix any fixed quantity of work to be performed in order to secure minimum wage. In the event, any group rendered less work, the wage of the group was proportionately reduced and the wage earned by each worker was reduced below Rs.7 per day. There was considerable resentment among women workers belonging to Scheduled Castes who were engaged in the construction work.


1. Whether the reduction of the daily wage of the workers violative of the provisions of the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 and Article 23 of the Constitution or not?

2. Whether the labour rendered by the workers amounted to “forced labour” within the ambit of Article 23 or not? 


The Supreme Court ruled that the payment of wages lesser than minimum wages to the individual engaged in Famine Relief Work is an infringement of Article 23. When any labour or service is utilised by the State from any person devastated by drought, the State cannot pay him less wage than the minimum wage for the reason that it is given to them as an aid to relieve the famine condition. The State has no authority to exploit their vulnerable condition.

Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India (1983)

Facts of the case

The petitioner in this case was a non-profit organisation “Bandhua Mukti Morcha” which is dedicated to the cause of release of bonded labourers in the country. The petitioner surveyed some stone quarries in Faridabad District near Delhi and found there were a large number of labourers from Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan who were working in the stone quarries under inhumane conditions and many of them were bonded labourers. These labourers were not permitted to leave the stone quarries and were providing forced labour. They had to drink dirty water and lived in small huts.


1. Whether the system of bonded labour was incompatible with the new egalitarian socio-economic order and violative of the Constitutional values?

2. Were the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 and the Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979 applicable to the workmen in the stone quarries?

3. Was the Mines Act, 1952 applicable to stone quarries?


The Supreme Court said that when a suit is initiated in the court through PIL claiming the presence of bonded labour the Government ought to appreciate it as it may give the Government a chance to determine whether the bonded labour system is still in existence and also to take suitable measures to eliminate that system. It is the Constitutional duty of the Government under Article 23 which forbids forced labour in any form. Article 23 has outlawed the practice of bonded labour but regrettably, no significant endeavour was made to implement this provision. It was just in 1976 that Parliament made the Bonded Labour (Abolition) Act, 1976, providing for the eradication of the bonded labour system with the purpose of stopping the financial and physical exploitation of the weaker classes of the people.

The Supreme Court held that the Minimum Wages Act, 1948; the Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979 and the Mines Act, 1952 were applicable to stone quarries. The Government of Haryana was directed to draw up a scheme programme for “a better and more meaningful rehabilitation of freed bonded labourers” in light of the guidelines framed by the Secretary to the Government of India, Ministry of Labour in his letter dated 2nd September 1982. The Court deemed it necessary to direct a further inquiry for the purpose of determining whether any of the labourers working in the stone quarries and stone crushers in Faridabad District were bonded labourers or not in furtherance of this judgement. The Government of Haryana was instructed to constitute a vigilance committee in each sub-division of a district in compliance with the requirements of Section 13 of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976.

Importance of right against exploitation vis-a-vis Article 23 of the Indian Constitution

The right against exploitation is a significant fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution which provides protection to individuals against exploitative practices like human trafficking, begar, forced labour, child labour and forced prostitution. Article 23 prohibits exploitative practices like trafficking in humans, begar and other similar kinds of forced labour. Article 24 prohibits the employment of children in factories and hazardous employment. Right against exploitation protects individuals against abuse and exploitation. It ensures that no one is forced to engage in work that is violative of their basic human dignity.

Article 23 imposes a positive obligation on the State to take steps to abolish evils of “traffic in human beings,” begar and other similar forms of forced labour, wherever they are found. It is pertinent to note that in furtherance of the objective of this provision many legislations like the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1976; The Bonded Labour (Abolition) Act, 1976; Minimum Wages Act, 1948 and others which prohibit various exploitative practices and protects individuals against abuse both at the hands of the State as well as private individuals.

The Supreme Court in landmark judgements such as People’s Union for Democratic Rights v. Union of India (1982), Sanjit Roy v. State of Rajasthan (1983) and Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India (1983) where the Supreme Court highlighted the significance of Article 23 and directed the State to protect this important fundamental right. 


Exploitation may exist in different forms such as sexual exploitation, forced or compulsory labour, child labour and many other forms. Exploitation may be motivated by different factors such as monetary or sexual gratification. In some cases, class-based exploitation may be embedded in the customs or traditions of a society.

In due course, various legislations were passed both nationally and internationally to deal with exploitative practices like human trafficking, forced or compulsory labour, slavery, child labour, prostitution etc. When the Constitution of India came into force, the right against exploitation became a fundamental right. Right against exploitation i.e., Articles 23 and 24 of the Indian Constitution prohibits exploitation of human beings. Article 23(1) lays down the provision to expressly forbid traffic in human beings, begar and other equivalent kinds of forced labour. In furtherance of this provision, several legislations have been passed. 

Despite the various legislations and prohibitions many forms of exploitation like human trafficking and compulsory labour still exist in India. Some sections of society are still deprived of basic freedoms and rights that other people enjoy. The vulnerable and disadvantaged sections of society are still exploited on a daily basis. Human trafficking which is a scourge to the modern civilised society still exists in India. To eliminate the problem of human trafficking both national and international co-operation is required. Forced labour or labour at less than minimum wage even exists in the present time. To remedy the problem of exploitation the strict enforcement of relevant laws and awareness at the societal level is necessary. The socio-economic conditions of the underprivileged classes also need to improve, in order to eradicate the exploitation of human beings.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

What is exploitation?

The word ‘exploitation’ means the use of someone or something for one’s own benefit. In relation to humans, it means, any act of treating someone unfairly or victimising someone for one’s own benefit. Right against Exploitation as provided under Articles 23 and 24 of the Constitution affords protection against exploitation to both citizens as well as non-citizens in India.

Which international organisations are dedicated to the protection of the rights of labourers?

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) is the primary organisation dedicated to the protection of the rights of labourers at the international level. Besides, the World Trade Organisation also deals with various labour standards meant to protect the rights of labourers.

How is Article 24 of the Constitution crucial in protecting the children against exploitation?

Article 24 of the Constitution prohibits the employment of children below 14 years of age in factories and hazardous employment. This provision is in the interest of the welfare and safety of children. Article 39 of the Constitution also imposes an obligation upon the state to ensure that the health and strength of workers, men and women, and the tender of children are not abused and that children are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength.


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