Right against Exploitation- Forced Labor

Right against exploitation- FORCED LABOR

Around 25 million of people globally are the victims of force labor. Article 23 and 24 of the Indian Constitution has marked the important Fundamental Right of – RIGHT AGAINST EXPLOITATION. This very important Fundamental right has guaranteed protection from exploitation to every single citizen of the country.

This research paper will focus on what is force labour,  Indian Constitution prohibiting force labour, what is labour and force labour, what is bonded labour and the difference between bonded labours and force labour, criminal liability arises.

ARTICLE 23 of the Indian Constitution-:

  1. Prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labor

(1) Traffic in human beings and begar and other similar forms of forced labor are prohibited and any contravention of this provision shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law

(2) Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from imposing compulsory service for public purpose, and in imposing such service the State shall not make any discrimination on grounds only of religion, race, caste or class or any of them[1].

Article 23 of the Indian Constitution prohibits human trafficking and force labor.

Indian Constitution prohibits force labor

The meaning of force labor and its need to prohibit forced labor came by judicial interpretation in the year 1982 in PEOPLE’S UNION FOR DEMOCRATIC V. UNION OF INDIA dated 18th September 1982[2].

In this asiad workers case the apex court had observed that any form of force labor even the begar is prohibited under the article 23 of the Indian constitution. The remuneration is not the criteria, labor that is worked in compulsion or force will be termed as force labor.

What is force labor?

According to International Labor Organization- “all work or service which is exacted from any person under the threat of a penalty and for which the person has not offered himself or herself voluntarily.”[3]

According to oxford’s dictionary- hard physical work that somebody, often a prisoner or slave, is forced to do[4].

Any work which is done without the will of that person is considered as forced labor. Forced labor in lay man language means where people are forced to provide work or service under threat or penalty. According to Global Slavery Index, in 2016 there were 18.3 million people reported in modern slavery in India.[5]

Article 23(1) of the Indian constitution- Prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labor.[6]

Forced labor has been classified into three categories

  • Forced labor requisitioned by government for public purposes under legal provisions.
  • Forced labor exacted by landlords and creditors.
  • Customary forced labor exacted by private individuals.

The Constitution of India strictly prohibits human trafficking and forced labor. Any person given less-than-minimum wage is considered as forced labor. The minimum wage in India is INR 176 per day which will be INR 4,576 per month. India is the highest in competitive labor cost in Asia.

What is bonded labor and the difference between bonded labor and force labor

Bonded labor has been defined under bonded labor system (abolition) act of 1976 as system of forced or partly forced labor. The concept of bonded labor in India is not a new but an old way of exploitation and discrimination.

Bonded labors are identified by different names in different parts of our country (India). Namely , gothi, vethi or bhagola in Andhra Pradesh, ‘kamiya’in Bihar , ‘jeetha’ in Karnataka, Paniyans and Adyans in Kerela , Kamiya , Harwah or Hali in Madhya Pradesh, Vet or Beggar in Maharashtra.

Bonded labor is a type of force labor where an individual is forced to work as the repayment of his debt or security against debt. People are forced to work in way so that they can repay their debts. Bonded labor is a form of force labor. It occurs when a person is forced to work to pay debt. Bonded labors also know as debt bondage or debt slavery. This is a kind of a contract in which the agreement can be oral or in writing. In the agreement the time may be fixed or may not be depending on how much the loan is taken and in what time it can repay. In debt bondage the person is not free until he repays the entire loan. Most or all of the money they earn goes to pay off their loan. The value of their work invariably becomes greater than the original sum of money borrowed. Debt bondage is mostly seen or witnessed in south Asian countries such as India and Pakistan. Most of the evidence states that people who are under debt bondage are from marginalized section, tribes, refugees, and most commonly migrant workers.

Though there is not a huge difference in bonded labor and force labor as bonded labor is a part of force labor but the only difference we can make out is that in force labor the individual is force to work under threat and bonded labor the person is forced to work under the debt. The burden of debt can be from a very long time means it may be continuing from generations.

Criminal liability

In bonded labor system (abolition) act, 1976 deals with all the prohibition for debt bondage. In this act chapter VI OFFENCES AND PROCEDURES FOR TRIAL section 16 deals with the punishment for enforcement of bonded labor.

This section of clearly deals that after the commencement of this act any person who induces any person under debt bondage will be punishable with imprisonment for term of three year and can extended and also with fine which will be extend to two thousand rupees[7].


Though bonded labor is now almost abolished but we can still see some evidences that it is still in practice. In rural areas this is still an issue which should be overlooked.

[1] The constitution of India

[2] Asiad workers case

[3] International labour organisation

[4] Oxford learner’s dictionaries

[5] Global slavery index

[6] The constitution of India

[7] Bonded labour system (abolition) act, 1976

Author: Sweksha Beniwal,
vivekananda institute of professional studies . BA LLB 2nd year

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