The Rights against Exploitation is provided under Articles 23 and 24 of the Constitution of India. Right to personal liberty is never real if some people are exposed to exploitation by others. Arts. 23 and 24 of the constitution are designed to prevent exploitation of men by men. Thus rights ensured by these two articles may be considered as complementary to the individual rights secured by Arts. 19 and 21 of the constitution.
Article 23 of the Indian Constitution reads as follows :
i. “Traffic in human beings and beggar and similar other forms of forced labour are prohibited and any contravention of this provision shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law.”
ii. ”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 of class or any of them.”
Ever since the dawn of civilization in every society, the stronger exploited the weak. Slavery was the most prevalent and perhaps the cruelest form of human exploitation. Our constitution does not explicitly forbid slavery. The scope of Article 23 is far wide. Any form of exploitation is forbidden. Thus forcing the landless labour to render free service by the landowner is unconstitutional. Equally, forcing helpless women into prostitution is a crime. The intention of the constitution is that whatever a person does must be voluntary. There must not be any element of coercion involved behind a man’s action.
The state however may call upon citizens to render national service in defence of the country. Thus conscription is not unconstitutional. But in compelling people to render national service, the state must not discriminate on grounds of race, sex, caste or religion.
Art. 24 forbids employment of child-labour in factories or in hazardous works. The art. reads
”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.”
In an environment of all pervading poverty, children are often forced to seek employment to earn a living. Employers often find it less costly to engage child labour at a cheap price. But children so employed do not get opportunities for development. Thus, employment of child labor is a form of traffic in human beings. Hence it is justifiably forbidden. But employment of child labor cannot be effectively checked unless there is overall improvement of economic conditions of the poorer sections of the society. This provision of the constitution remains a pious wish even today.
The first provision in the Article that mentions the Right against exploitation, states the ‘eradication of human trafficking and forced labor (beggar)’. Article 23 declares slave trade, prostitution and human trafficking a punishable offence. There is, however, an exception here in the form of employment without payment for compulsory services for public purposes. Compulsory military conscription is covered by this provision.
Article 24 of the Indian Constitution prohibits abolition of employment of children below the age of 14 years in dangerous jobs like factories and mines. Child labour is considered gross violation of the spirit and provisions of the constitution. The parliament has also passed the Child Labor act of 1986, by providing penalties for employers and relief and rehabilitation amenities for those affected.
Although Articles 23 and 24 lay down definite provisions against trafficking and child labor, the weaker sections of the society are still faced by such grave problems. Punishable by law, these acts are now legitimately bound by legal actions of the Parliament in the form of Bonded Labor Abolition Act of 1976 and the Child Labor Act of 1986, along with the ground rules and provisions stated in the Right against Exploitation act.