Right against exploitation – Article 23 of Indian Constitution



Nature creates humans without any discrimination based on race. Society builds a barrier of classes in people. It allows people within a limited boundary. Then times goes on, the racism getting abolish. But still, in the 21st Century, racism exists in society. Human trafficking, begar and forced Labour are borrowed by factories as contractually without obligation towards their protections. Forced labour, begar and human trafficking is the most common aspect of current slavery.

Forced Labour or Begar – Forced labour or begar is any labour or service which helpless persons are forced to perform against their will, under threat of penalty. Almost all slavery exercises include some component of forced labour or beggar.[1]

Human Trafficking – Human trafficking is the procedure of entangling people through the use of turmoil, extortion or oppression and abusing them for economic or private gain.[2]

Exploitation is strictly prohibited in India under Article 23 of a fundamental right. Article 23 is cherished in the Constitution of India.

Article 23 ‘Right against Exploitation’:- 

Article 23(1) of the Constitution of India prohibits three u social practices like traffic in human beings, begar and forced Labour. Any contravention of Article 23 shall be an offence punishable by law. This right is available for citizens of India and foreigners also. It secures the individual not only against the state but also against private persons. Article 23 of the fundamental right is wide and unconditional.

The word begar refers to compulsory work without any debt. Before the commencement of the Indian Constitution, the begar system was practised in the princely states of India. The begar system is a great evil under the eyes of the law. The begar has been abolished through the Article 23 of the Constitution of India.

The trafficking of human beings is constitutionally abolished by Article 23. The expression trafficking of human beings contains:

  1. Selling and buying of human beings like products;
  2. Immortal trade of children and women, including prostitution;
  3. Devadasis;
  4. Slavery.

Women and Girls trafficking are strictly punishable in India by the Immoral Traffic in Women and Girls Act, 1956.

The word forced labour refers to obliging a person to work against his wish. The term force contains not only physical or legal force but also force arising from the compulsion of financial situations. The wages less than the minimum wages would be considered as forced labour. The Bonded Labour System Abolition Act, 1976; the Minimum Wages Act, 1948; the Contract Labour Act, 1970 and the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 were made by the legislation for punishing force labour.

Article 23(2) furnishes for an anomaly to Article 23(1). It allows the state to assess compulsory service for public intentions and in exacting such service, the State shall not create any discrimination based on race, caste, creed and religion. The state may thus absolve women from compulsory services for that will be intolerance based on gender and this has not been unlawful by Article 23(2) of the Constitution of India.

 Case Laws:-

  1. In the case of Suraj V. State of Madhya Pradesh (AIR 1960 MP 303),the Madhya Pradesh High Court stated that withholding of pay of a government worker as a punishment has been clasped to be ineffective given Article 23 which prohibits begar. To ask a man to work and then not to compensate him any wages savours of begar. It is a fundamental right under Article 23 of a citizen of India not to be obliged to work without fees.
  2. In the case of Rohit Vasavacia V. General Manager, IFFCO (AIR 1984 Guj 102), the pitiable situations of contract labour working in a fertiliser factory run by a cooperative community were sent to the notice of Gujarat High Court. The workers had to deal with urea manually without the reasonable safeguards, they are not free to leave the premises as they wished, their health was in jeopardy and adequate fees were not being expended to them. The apex court characterised this form of labour as forced labour forbade by Article 23 of the Constitution of India.
  3. In the case of Vishal Jeet V. Union of India ( AIR 1990 SC 1412), the Supreme Court of India said that the state governments to advise their law-enforcing authorities to take action under the law to eliminate prostitution of a child.
  4. In the case of Labourers Working on Salal Hydro-Project V. State of Jammu and Kashmir (AIR 1984 SC 177), the Supreme Court of India found that the workmen employed on the project were being withheld the rights and benefits assured to the workmen under different labour law.
  5. In the case of Sanjit Roy V. State of Rajasthan (AIR 1983 SC 328) payment by the state of fees lower than the minimum wages to persons employed on Famine relief work was held ineffective under Article 23. Because of famine situations in the countryside, the public works department of the state of Rajasthan started a road-building project as a famine relief measure and a large numbers of workers were required on this project. As it transpired, the state was paying to workers less than the minimum wages fixed for unskilled workers in the state. The state contended that this was authorized by the Rajasthan Famine Relief Works Employees Act, 1964. The state this insisted that because of the Exemption Act, the Minimum Wages Act did not apply to employees immersed on a famine relief work.

Denying the argument, the Supreme Court of India ordered that even those persons who are employed on famine relief work should be paid the legal minimum wages and not less than that as that would be ineffective under Article 23.


After the advent of the Constitution of India, the exploitation of human beings is strictly prohibited under the fundamental rights of Article 23. In the modern era, many people are still victims of this exploitation because of their illiteracy and financial conditions. The government constituted many social development schemes for their development. And the ultimate changes in society happen if people are aware of these matters.



[1] https://www.antislavery.org/slavery-today/forced-labour/.

[2] https://www.antislavery.org/slavery-today/human-trafficking/.

Author: Shreeparna Goswami,
2nd year B.A.LL.B of Shyambazar Law College

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