Right Against Exploitation Under The Constitution Of India – A Comprehensive Analysis


The ‘Human Rights’ are the inherent and minimal rights that are available to every human being residing in any part of the earth by virtue of birth in the human race without discriminating anyone on the grounds of race, sex, language, nationality, religion, class, etc. To ensure the protection and promotion of ‘Human Rights’ and make it one of the key purposes of United Nations Organisations, this term was mentioned seven times in the UN Charter. In this regard, the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), ‘International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights’(1966), and other International Covenants which brought the ‘Human Rights’ into the domain of International Law, deserve special mentions. ‘Human Rights’ is a broad term and its horizon has been widened in due course of time.

Yet, in concise meaning, it includes Rights to life, personal liberty, equality, dignity, and protection from exploitations and arbitrary use of powers and forces. Article 3 of UDHR recognises individual’s inherent Right to life, personal liberty, and security of person. Article 8 of ICCPR also speaks about the prohibition of slavery, involuntary servitude, and forced labour. Article 6 of the American Convention on Human Rights also advocates for the prohibition of slavery or involuntary servitude, slave trade, traffic in women, and any forms of compulsory or forced labour.

Those internationally recognised ‘Human Rights’ are also adopted by most of the countries all over the world. India is not an exception to it. The framers of the Constitution of India took into account the above-mentioned covenants for the protection of ‘Human Rights’ and put their earnest effort. As an outcome, those ‘Human Rights’ were enshrined in Part III of the Constitution of India, 1950 which speaks about the ‘Fundamental Rights’. Article 12 to 35 of the Constitution of India contained in Part III guarantees the ‘Fundamental Rights’ of the citizens and most of the ‘Human Rights’ as mentioned in the international covenants are embodied in it and these rights are strictly enforceable within the territory of India by the Courts. Some ‘Human Rights’ are also embodied in the ‘Directive Principles of State Policy’ contained in Part IV of the Constitution of India. Among those ‘Fundamental Rights’, Article 21 of the Constitution of India forms the very basis of ‘Protection of Human Rights’ as it is considered to be the ‘Procedural Magna Carta’, protective of ‘Right to Life and Personal Liberty’ and it cannot be taken away at any circumstances except the procedure established by law. Article 21 explicitly states that—

“Protection of life and personal liberty— No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law”

On the other hand, The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 also recognized the most of the universally declared ‘Human Rights’ and under this statute, the ‘National Human Right Commission’ and other State Human Rights Commissions were constituted, work as the statutory bodies to protect the ‘Human Rights’ of Indians.

It is noteworthy that the ‘Right to life and liberty’ also includes the ‘Right to dignity’ of the individuals. Therefore, Article 21 alone is not sufficient to protect the basic human rights and dignity of the individuals because ‘Right to life and liberty’ of the citizens cannot be protected if their exploitation is not prohibited. Therefore, Articles 23 and 24 were enshrined in the Constitution of India and these protect the Right of the citizens against exploitation.

Exploitations, as recognized under the Indian Constitution, are several types. The most essential types are- human trafficking, begar, forced labour, and child labour. By prohibiting such exploitations, Articles 23 and 24 indeed protects human dignity which is mostly synonymous with the Right to life and liberty under Article 21 and hence Article 21 and Article 23 & 24 are interdependent.

The exploitation of human beings is considered to be one of the biggest evils in the modern era as well as in the ancient era all over the world. In due course of time, various legislations made by the Indian parliament and different approaches earnestly taken by the Courts have taken effective roles to eradicate these evils at most of the parts in accordance with the provisions laid down in Articles 23 & 24 of the Constitution. In this article, we shall discuss the ‘Right Against Exploitation’.

Right Against Exploitation Under The Constitution Of India

In the Indian context, ‘Right Against Exploitation’ is contained two major kinds of exploitation as enshrined in Articles 23 & 24 of the Constitution of India. Those are—

  1. Article 23: Prohibition of traffic in human being and forced labour.
  2. Article 24: Prohibition of employment of children in factories, etc.

1. Prohibition of traffic in human being and forced labour:

Article 23 of the Constitution of India states that—

Prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labour— (1) Traffic in human beings and begar and other similar forms of forced labour 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 purposes, 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.

Prohibition of trafficking in human beings and forced labour:

Article 23(1) of the Constitution of India lays down the provision to explicitly prohibit traffic in human beings, begar and other similar forms of forced labour. Any contravention of this provision has been made punishable by laws in force and under Article 35(a)(ii), only the Parliament is vested with the powers to make such laws for prescribing punishments of the offences mentioned in Article 23(1). The scope of Article 23 is wide and unlimited and in the case- People’s Union for Democratic Rights and Other vs. Union of India[1], the Supreme Court explained:

“The reason for enacting this provision in the Chapter on fundamental rights is to be found in the socio-economic condition of the people at the time when the Constitution came to be enacted… the Constitution-makers found that they had the enormous task before them of changing the socio-economic structure of the country with a view to reaching, social and economic justice to the common man to creating socio-economic conditions in which everyone would be able to enjoy basic human rights and participate in the fruits of freedom and liberty in an egalitarian, social and economic frame-work.”

In this case, it was further observed by the Court that these provisions of Article 23 do not solely available against the State, it is also available against the private citizens, bodies, and organizations. It is clearly designed to be a “general prohibition total in its effect and all-pervasive in its range and it is enforceable not only against the State but also against any other person indulging in any such practice”[2].

These are the major constituent elements of Article 23(1) —

A. Human Trafficking: ‘Traffic in human beings means to deal in men and women like goods, such as to sell or otherwise dispose of them’. It includes traffic in children and women for immoral or other purposes. This mostly implies the sale and purchase of human beings for the purpose of involuntary servitude such as sexual slavery, forced prostitution, or any other types of forced labour.

human trafficking

Section 370 of the Indian Penal Code expressly states that “whoever imports, exports, removes, buys, sells or disposes of a person as a slave or accepts, receives or detains against his will any person as a slave shall be punished with imprisonment”.

Even Section 367, IPC criminalizes the act of kidnapping for the purpose of slavery. Nowadays the ‘traffic in women’ has become a new form of slavery and it is also a major concern for every nation as it has created a scourge in the International field. The original form of slavery i.e. sale and purchase of human beings for the purpose of lifelong servitude has surprisingly disappeared and it was replaced by new forms of slavery such as the disposal of women for immoral purposes (a trade in human flesh).

It mainly implies the sale, purchase, and transportation of women, girls, and children from one country to other countries for the purpose of selling them in different markets set up in different countries throughout the world, and the females, adults, children are sold usually for immoral purposes such as prostitution, menials, etc. Even these kinds of human trafficking also take place in India and it is considered to be the worst and most barbarous form of human trafficking which is no way less injurious for modern human civilization because it grossly harms the human dignity of women.

In this regard, the Parliament passed various legislations such as the ‘Illegal Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956’ (Originally known as Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women & Girls Act, 1956) deserves special mention. Section 3 of this Act prescribes punishment for keeping a brothel or allowing any premises to be used as a brothel. Section 5 prescribes punishment for inducing or taking women or girls for the purpose of prostitution. Section 6 makes the act of detention of women or girls in a place where prostitution is carried on, a punishable offence. Section 9 also makes the act of seduction of women or girls in custody for the purpose of prostitution. In the case of trafficking of minors, Section 372 of IPC makes the act of selling and purchasing of minors for the purpose of prostitution a punishable offence.

Thus this term ‘Human Trafficking’ can be widely interpreted from different aspects and in all cases, the main purpose is always the exploitation of victims whether it is in the forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour,  removal of organs, or a range of other forms.

B. Begar: Begar implies “labour or service exacted by Government or a person in power without giving remuneration for it”[3] In the case- People’s Union for Democratic Rights and Other vs. Union of India[4], “the word ‘begar’ in this Article is not a word of common use in English language. It is a word of Indian origin which, like many other words, has found its way in the English vocabulary. It is very difficult to formulate a precise definition of the word ‘begar’, but there can be no doubt that it is a form of forced labour under which a person is compelled to work without receiving any remuneration”[5].

It is an act of extraction of services from the employees by the Government or persons in power without giving remuneration. It is undoubtedly one type of forced labour that is prohibited under Article 23(1). It was prevalent under the Zamindari system where the landless tenants were compelled to render services to their landlords without receiving remuneration.

In the case- State Through Gokul Chand vs. Banwari And Ors[6], the Allahabad High Court held that criminalization of the act of refusing to render any service to anyone on the ground that he belongs to a scheduled caste under Section 3 and Section 6 of U.P Removal of Social Disabilities Act, 1974 doesn’t amount to ‘begar’ under Article 23(1), hence those particular provisions of the Act cannot be termed as ‘Unconstitutional’.

C. Other similar forms of forced labour: In ordinary meaning, ‘other similar forms of forced labour’ implies the ‘forced labours’ which are similar to the ‘begar’. In the case- Dulal Samanta vs. District Magistrate, Howrah[7], the Calcutta High Court while interpreting the expression ‘other similar forms of forced labour’ under Article 23(1) of the Constitution held that this expression should be interpreted by using the doctrine- ‘Ejusdem Generis’ i.e. “it has to be something in the nature of either trafficking in human being or begar”. In this expression, the term ‘forced labour’ can be interpreted in the area of the large amplitude of interpretations. Under Section 374 of the IPC, the act of “unlawfully compelany person to labour against the will of that person” is an offence punishable by law. It is mostly similar to the American expression- ‘involuntary servitude’.

Even ‘human trafficking’ may also constitute ‘forced labour’ in case of prostitution or sexual exploitation of women, slavery, or similar forms of servitude or removal of organs. Under American expression, the ‘forced labour’ or ‘involuntary servitude’ may also occur in cases where no physical forces or frauds are involved for entering into the contracts such as ‘debt bondage’ or ‘peonage’. In this case- People’s Union for Democratic Rights and Other vs. Union of India[8], the Supreme Court of India observed that “force” in this context, includes not only the physical force but also mental compulsion under penal sanction or due to hunger, poverty, or the like. In this case, Justice P.N Bhagwati observed that

“any factor which deprives a person of a choice of alternatives and compels him to adopt one particular course of action may properly be regarded as force, and if labour or service is compelled as a result of such ‘force’ it would be forced labour”.

In the case- Sanjit Roy vs. State of Rajasthan[9], it was observed by the Supreme Court Court that even

“where a person provides labour or service to another for remuneration which is less than the minimum wage the labour or service provided by him clearly falls within the scope and ambit of forced labour.”

In this case, it was held that “the Rajasthan Famine Relief works Employees (Exception from Labour Laws) Act, 1964 in so far as it excludes the application of ‘Minimum Wages Act, 1948’ to workmen employed in famine work and permits payment of less than the minimum wage to such workmen must be held to be invalid as offending the provisions of Article 23.”  Thus it was held that any law violating the provisions of paying minimum wages as given in the ‘Minimum Wages Act, 1948’ is ‘Unconstitutional’.

The Court also emphasized that the framers of the Constitution by bringing Article 23(1) intended to eradicate all forms of ‘forced labour’.  If any contract is made to pay less than minimum wages in return for the labour of another was held to be unenforceable even though the party making the contract was a private person. Unlike England, in India, the provision of rigorous imprisonment under the Indian Penal Code includes penal servitude or imprisonment with hard labour for some grave or heinous crimes and such kinds of servitude or labour are not to be treated as ‘forced labour’, hence those are not violative of Article 23(1) of the Constitution though the prisoners are entitled to receive minimum wages in return for their labour.


‘Bonded Labour’ is another type of forced labour which implies where a person is forced to work to pay off his debt for inadequate remuneration and it is also violative of Article 23(1). To abolish the system of ‘Bonded Labour’, the Parliament of India has brought Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 which has abolished the ‘bonded labour’ system and discharges all debts and obligation to render labour, etc., under any such practice, and makes the enforcement of any such contract by a creditor or other person, an offence punishable by an Executive Magistrate, and the jurisdiction of civil courts is excluded.

In the case, Bandhua Mukti Morcha vs. Union of India[10], the Supreme Court declared that “bonded labour as a crude form of forced labour prohibited by Article 23. The court also held that the failure of the State to identify the bonded labourers to release them from bondage and to rehabilitate them as envisaged by Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 violates Articles 21 and 23. Supreme Court characterized the system of bonded labour under which one person is bonded to provide labour to another for years and years under an alleged debt is supposed to be wiped out which never seems to happen during the lifetime of the bonded labourer as “totally incompatible with the new egalitarian socio-economic order” which we have promised to build and it is not only an affront to basic human dignity, but also constitutes gross and revolting violation of constitutional values”[11]. In this case, Supreme Court further linked Article 23(1) and 21 with ‘bonded labour’ and observed that

“it is the fundamental right of everyone in this country, assured under the interpretation given to Article 21 to live with dignity, free from exploitation”.

Here the Apex Court also considered the applicability of workmen under Mines ActInter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970, etc. and the Court finally held that

“the State cannot be permitted to repudiate its obligation that though the concerned labourers may be provided forced labour, the State Government does not owe any obligation to them unless and until they show in any appropriate legal proceedings conducted according to rules of adversary system of justice that they are bonded labourers. It was held that certain presumption could be raised that a workman is a “bonded labourer”, for unless he had been paid as advance a sum of money or any other consideration, especially when most of the workmen are members of scheduled castes or scheduled tribes or other backward classes”[12].

In the case- Neeraja Choudhary vs. State of M.P[13], “direction was given to the State by the Supreme Court to rehabilitate the bonded labourers as it was apprehended that if they are not rehabilitated then they would soon relapse in the state of bondage. The court outlined the method of identification of bonded labourers and held that whenever it is found that any workman is forced to provide labour for no remuneration or nominal remuneration, the presumption would be that he is a bonded labourer unless the employer or the State Government is in a position to prove otherwise by rebutting such presumption. It was held that under Articles 21 and 23, a person is entitled to live with dignity free from exploitation, and when the bonded labourer is released from bondage, they must be suitably rehabilitated, and any failure to implement Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act would amount to violation of Articles 21 and 23 of the  On the above decisions, Supreme Court has given various directions from time to time to States regarding the rehabilitation of bonded labourers”[14].

In the notable case- Kahason Tangkhul vs. Simtri Shaili, 1961[15], there was a customary practice prevalent in Manipur during the pre-independence era that every householder of the villages had to render free labour for one day to the headman or ‘khullakpa’ of the village. In the above case, the Court held that such customary practices or traditions cannot be termed as ‘forced labour’ and it is not violative of Article 23(1). But, in another subsequent case, this decision was altered and the Court held that any ‘free labour’ can be violative of Article 23(1) and it is immaterial whether that ‘free labour’ is customary practices or any other ordinary ‘forced labours’.

In a nutshell, ‘forced labour’ under Article 23(1) of the Constitution of India denotes— (1) the works or services which is rendered by the workers against their will or being compelled by the extreme poverty and socio-economic backwardness when no other alternatives are available to them except engaging themselves in such works or services with minimal or no remunerations.

(2) nature of the works or services to be performed is unjust, immoral, and oppressive or involves extreme hardship.

It is also noteworthy that the term ‘forced labour’ only denotes ‘involuntary servitude’. It does not include those works and services in which the workers engaged themselves voluntarily even knowing about the oppressive, unjust, or immoral nature and extreme hardship of the works with minimal or no remunerations. Hence, where anyone voluntarily engages himself in such works or services, he cannot claim any remedy under Article 23(1) of the Constitution.

Compulsory service for public purposes:

The term ‘public purposes’ as laid down in Article 23(2) denotes “any purpose in which even a fraction of the community may be interested or benefited”, as held expressed by the Supreme Court in the case- Somawanti vs. State of Punjab[16]. This is an exception of the provision laid down in Article 23(1) and under this clause; the State is free to impose any compulsory services in which the general interest of the community is directly and vitally concerned. But, the purpose behind such imposition must be for public benefit as opposed to any particular benefit or interest of individuals. The notable point is that authority to impose such compulsory services is only vested to the State and no private individuals or bodies are entitled to do the same.  It is also stipulated that State will not discriminate against anybody on the grounds of sex, religion, race, class or caste, etc. and no citizen will be permitted to be exempted from such compulsory services on any of the above grounds. In such cases, the services imposed by the State will not be treated as ‘Unconstitutional’ or violative of Article 23(1) of the Constitution.

Indian Parliament has passed ‘National Service Act, 1972’ which empowers the Government of India to conscript qualified Engineers and Doctors below the age of 30 for national services such as family planning, rural health, construction of public roads, dams, bridges, etc. The term ‘national service’ denotes “any service which is likely to assist the defence of India and Civil defence or the efficient conduct of the military operation and includes such social services as the Central Government may, if it is of opinion that it is necessary for public purposes, so to do, by notification specified in that behalf”[17]. In this regard, the following imposed services are held to be valid-

(a) To compel a Government servant to continue his service even after his age of superannuation, due to pendency of the conclusion of a departmental inquiry as held by the Supreme Court in the case- Partap Singh vs. State of Punjab[18].

(b) To compel cultivators to carry the food grains to the Government godown without remuneration for labour in a scheme of procurement of food grains as an essential commodity for the community as held by the Apex Court in the case- Acharaj Singh vs. State of Bihar[19].

(c) To compel a person to render social services, e.g., as part of a campaign to reduce mass illiteracy, or to render medical or other professional services in remote parts of the country, as has been provided by enacting the National Service Act, 1972 as held in the case- The State vs. Jorawar[20] by Himachal Pradesh High Court.  

(d) To compel the residents of a locality to assist the police to suppress disturbance of the peace in that locality under Section 17 of The Police Act, 1861 as held by the Calcutta High Court in the case- Dulal Samanta vs. District Magistrate, Howrah[21].

(e) To compel a prisoner undergoing rigorous imprisonment to do hard labour though they are entitled to receive minimum wages in return for their labours. In the case- State of Gujarat vs. Hon’ble High Court of Gujarat[22], the Supreme Court observed that “an assurance to him that his hard labour would eventually snowball into a handsome saving for his own rehabilitation would help him to get stripped-off the moroseness and desperation in his mind, while toiling the rigors of hard labour during the period of jail life. Hence they serve a public purpose. A reformative approach towards the convict through punishment and hard labour attempt to make him a good man and hence exaction of hard labour from a person undergoing rigorous imprisonment is saved under Article 23(2)”[23]. In another landmark case- Deena Dayal vs. Union Of India[24], the Supreme Court held that the labour exacted from the prisoners undergoing rigorous imprisonment doesn’t contravene their fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 23. It nevertheless means that they are not entitled to receive minimum wages. Exacting labour from prisoners without minimal remuneration amounts to forced labour, hence violative of Article 23(1) and it will not be treated within the ambit of exceptions laid down under Article 23(2).

(f) To conscribe compulsory military services and raise defence forces if necessary for the purpose of defence or prosecution of war and there can be no other great public purpose rather than the defence of the State. Like other Countries such as U.K, USA, West Germany, Australia, etc. the Constitution of India also empowers the Indian Parliament, under Entry-I of List-I under 7th Schedule to do the same. Likewise, it includes also Police Services and these will never contravene the provisions laid down in Article 23 of the Constitution.

2. Prohibition of employment of children in factories, etc.:

Article 24 embodied in Part III of the Constitution of India affirms that—

“Prohibition of employment of children in factories, etc.— No child below the age of fourteen years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment.”

Various International Charters and Covenants have stipulated some provisions in order to abolish ‘Child Labour’. Article 10 of the ‘International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966’ declares that—

“….. Children and young persons should be protected from economic and social exploitation. Their employment in work harmful to their morals or health or dangerous to life or likely to hamper their normal development should be punishable by law. States should also set age limits below which the paid employment of child labour should be prohibited and punishable by law.”

It is noteworthy that, the ‘Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989’ (commonly known as the UNCRC) which is an ‘International Human Rights Treaty on Child Rights’, plays an essential role. Article 3 of this Convention explicitly states—

“…States Parties undertake to ensure the child such protection and care as is necessary for his or her well-being, taking into account the rights and duties of his or her parents, legal guardians, or other individuals legally responsible for him or her, and, to this end, shall take all appropriate legislative and administrative measures…”.

Article 32 of this Convention also lays down the provisions for the nations to take appropriate legislative, administrative, social, economic, educational, and other measures as may be necessary to combat child labour and protect the rights of children all over the world.

child labour

‘Child labour’ exists everywhere in the world and it is a big issue for which the entire world is concerned. In the Indian Constitution, there are several provisions containing the welfare and healthy development of children. But, the ‘Child Labour’ issue is the biggest evil in this regard. Therefore, the framers of the Constitution have brought Article 24 in Part III which protects the children below the age of 14 years from engaging in any hazardous jobs, factories or mines, etc., and also makes it a ‘Fundamental Right’. Even, Article 39(f) under Directive Principles of State Policy (Part IV) also contains—

“State shall direct its policy securing that children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation”.

On the other hand, Article 45 contains another Directive Principles of States Policy which requires that the State shall endeavor to make a provision stipulating free and compulsory education of children until the attainment of 14 years of age. All the children below this age are supposed to be in school. Accordingly the Indian Parliament, by 86th Constitutional Amendment Act, 2002 inserted Article 21A in Part III of the Constitution which provides that—

“The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years in such manner as the State may, by law, determine”.

For the purpose of ensuring equality and opportunity to Women and Children who usually suffer from natural disabilities, Article 15(3) enables the State to make some ‘special provisions’ for their protection or benefit, as an exception to the equality and opportunity to all citizens guaranteed by Article 15(1).

The Directive Principles of State Policy provides the above protections to the children so that children of tender age are not abused and they are not forced to engage in hazardous works being compelled by sheer poverty economic necessity. Every child has the right to spend the childhood under the care of parents or the State in a peaceful and healthy environment without being forced to be engaged in avocation unsuited to their strength.  They should be provided with free education and all other necessities. The term ‘hazardous employment’ can be interpreted in conformity with Convention No. 59 adopted by the ‘International Labour Organization’ which has been ratified by India, as held by the Supreme Court in the case- People’s Union for Democratic Rights and Other vs. Union of India[25]. For example— Electricity is hazardous since it can injure or even kill people if not properly handled. This expression is, therefore, to be interpreted to include “construction work” even though it was not specified in the Schedule to the ‘Employment of Children Act, 1938’ and any act in contravention of this Article 24 will be treated as a violation of ‘Fundamental Right’ for which a Writ Petition under Article 32 can be filed in Supreme Court to claim ‘Constitutional Remedies’. In this regard, Article 23 can also be applicable for the protection of children from ‘human trafficking’ and ‘forced labour’ even though it does not talk about children specifically because children are the most vulnerable sections of the society and many of the children are exploited because of their poverty. They are deprived of education and enter into the works injurious to their health and personality. In order to strictly prohibit the usage of child labour, the Indian Parliament made several legislations.  One of the notable legislations made by the Indian Parliament was ‘The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000’ [earlier the “Juvenile Act, 1986”] which was enacted to provide for the care, protection, development, and rehabilitation of neglected or delinquent juveniles and by virtue of this Act, ‘Juvenile Justice Board’ was established. ‘The Factories Act, 1948’, ‘The Mines Act, 1952’ and ‘The Apprentices Act, 1961’ also proscribe the employment of children below the age of 14 years in factories, mining operations carried out underground, and trades as an apprentice for basic and practical training respectively.

In the year 1986, the comprehensive legislation was brought in by Parliament to prohibit the employment of children in some occupations listed in the legislation throughout India and that legislation was- ‘Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986’. The meaning of a “child” under this Act has been defined as ‘a person who has not completed 14 years’. The occupations and processes in which the employment of children below 14 years of age are prohibited are- transport of passengers, goods or mails by railway, works relating to the construction of railway station, cinder picking, cleaning of ash-pit or building operations in the railway premise, bidi-making, mica-cutting and splitting, manufacturing of matches, cloth printing, dyeing and weaving, soap manufacturing, building and construction industries, etc. In the landmark case- M.C. Mehta vs. State of Tamil Nadu[26], for tackling the problem of child labour, the Supreme Court issued a direction under the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, and directed the State Government regarding the fulfillment of legislative intendment behind the enactment. The Court passed an order that the offending employer must be directed to pay compensation for every child employed as his act was complete contravention of the provisions of the Act a sum of Rs 20,000/- and the Inspectors appointed under the Act must secure the compliance of the Act and see that for each child appointed in contravention of the provisions of the Act, the concerned employee pays Rs 20,000/- which sum could be deposited in a fund to be known as ‘Child Labour Rehabilitation-cum-Welfare Fund’. The Court also affirmed that ‘Fund’ so generated must be used to form a corpus whose income will be used only for the concerned child.

In another notable case- Bandhua Mukti Morcha vs. Union of India[27], the decision in M.C. Mehta’s case was upheld. The Supreme Court took cognizance of employment of children in carpet-weaving centers in Bihar and observed that the basic cause for child labour being poverty, instead of its total prohibition which will have an adverse effect; it should be banned progressively in a planned manner starting from most hazardous and intolerable activities. It directed that ‘primary education’ to children, in particular, to the child from poor, weaker sections, Dalits and Tribes and minorities is to be made mandatory. The basic education and employment orientated vocational education should be imparted so as to empower the children within those segments of the society to retrieve them from poverty and thus the basic abilities, skills, and capabilities to live a meaningful life for economic and social empowerment will be developed in due course of time. Compulsory education to these children is one of the principal means and primary duty of the State was directed to implement.


The most shameful, terrifying, immoral, disastrous, inhuman, brutal ‘Human Exploitations’ have not totally ended or eradicated yet in spite of various measures adopted by the nations throughout the world. Even though human civilization has been progressed over a period of time and reached the climax of advancement in all aspects such as technology, science, medicine, education, women empowerment, minority welfare, the welfare of backward classes, etc., some sections of society still remain detached from the illuminations of the modern civilized society. They are always deprived of enough scopes or opportunities of living in a standard livelihood like the other sections of the human society due to various reasons such as socio-economic backwardness, illiteracy, superstition, lack of contact with the external world, lack of legal support, representation in the Government, etc. The social evil of human exploitations such as human trafficking, beggary, forced labour, or any kinds of involuntary servitude, child labour is not only a concern of India or any particular nation but also the concern of the entire world. Various International Covenants, Conventions or treaties and ‘Human Rights Declarations’ have made earnest endeavor to dispel those social evils and most of the nations have also taken adequate measures to eradicate these human exploitations by making several legislations. In India, ‘Human Exploitation’ is strictly forbidden by Constitutional provisions as well as laws and any violation of those laws will attract punishments. But, some portions are still alienated from the light of the exploitation free modern society. The ‘Right Against Exploitation’ embodied in Articles 23 and 24 of the Constitution of India as well as in various ‘International Covenants’ and ‘Universal Human Rights Declaration’ are the basic ‘Human Rights’ and without protecting those rights, the human civilization cannot progress further. Those rights should always be protected and available in all circumstances to each and every section of the society without discriminating on the grounds of class or caste, race, socio-economic conditions, etc. because the human civilization will only be exhaustive altogether when every section of society especially women, children, and socio-economically backward classes will see the illumination of completely exploitation free modern world.


[1]. AIR 1982 SC 1473

[2]. DD Basu: Commentary on the Constitution of India, 9th ed, Vol 5, Articles 20 – 25

[3]. Vasudevan vs. Mittal (AIR 1962 Bom 53)

[4]. AIR 1982 SC 1473

[5].  DD Basu: Commentary on the Constitution of India, 9th ed, Vol 5, Articles 20 – 25

[6]. AIR 1951 All 615

[7]. AIR 1958 Cal 365

[8]. AIR 1982 SC 1473

[9]. AIR 1983 SC 328

[10]. AIR 1984 SC 802

[11]. DD Basu: Commentary on the Constitution of India, 9th ed, Vol 5, Articles 20 – 25

[12]. DD Basu: Commentary on the Constitution of India, 9th ed, Vol 5, Articles 20 – 25

[13]. AIR 1984 SC 1099

[14]. DD Basu: Commentary on the Constitution of India, 9th ed, Vol 5, Articles 20 – 25

[15]. AIR 1961 Manipur 1

[16]. AIR 1963 SC 151

[17]. DD Basu: Commentary on the Constitution of India, 9th ed, Vol 5, Articles 20 – 25

[18]. AIR 1964 SC 72

[19]. AIR 1967 Pat 114

[20]. AIR 1953 HP 18

[21]. AIR 1958 Cal 365

[22]. AIR 1998 SC 3164

[23].  DD Basu: Commentary on the Constitution of India, 9th ed, Vol 5, Articles 20 – 25

[24]. AIR 1983 SC 1155

[25]. AIR 1982 SC 1473

[26]. AIR 1997 SC 699

[27]. AIR 1984 SC 802

You can watch the following video to understand this topic ‘right against exploitation’ in Hindi – 

Souvik Roychoudhury

An ambitious, earnest, and inquisitive 3rd Year Student of Law, hailing from West Bengal, India, pursuing BA.LL.B(Hons) course at SOA National Institute Law, SOA University, Bhubaneswar, Odisha- An avid lover of legal studies, research, and analysis, pertaining to diverse and dynamic areas of law- An assiduous writer unabashed in setting forth unbiased individual opinions based on own perspectives and perceptions, exploring different horizons of the different subjects of research - Special areas of interest include Indian Constitutional law, Criminal law, Human Rights and other areas of its similar kinds.

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