Right Against Exploitation (Article 23 to 24): Meaning, Provisions & Significance

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Right Against Exploitation
Right Against Exploitation

The Right Against Exploitation, enshrined as a fundamental right in the Indian Constitution, plays a crucial role in ensuring human dignity, freedom, and social justice. This right acts as a guardian which protects the individual from the shackles of forced labor, human trafficking, and child exploitation. This article of Next IAS delves into the nuances of provisions related to Right Against Exploitation, their meaning, significance, exceptions, and more.

Meaning of Right Against Exploitation

The Right Against Exploitation is a fundamental human right that aims at protecting individuals from various forms of exploitation. It prohibits practices that lower the dignity of human beings. The essence of this right lies in safeguarding the dignity, freedom, and well-being of every individual, particularly vulnerable segments of society, by ensuring that they are not subjected to coercion, abuse, or dehumanization.

Right Against Exploitation in India

The Right Against Exploitation is a Fundamental Right enshrined in the Constitution of India. The detailed provisions related to the Right Against Exploitation contained in Articles 23 to 24 of the Constitution serve as a bulwark against various forms of exploitation. Together, they ensure the protection of individuals’ rights and dignity and uphold the principles of social justice.

Right Against Exploitation: Provisions under the Indian Constitution

Prohibition of Trafficking in Human Beings and Forced Labor (Article 23)

  • This provision prohibits trafficking in human beings, and all forms of forced labor such as begar, bonded labor, etc. Any violation of this provision shall be an offense punishable by law.
  • This right is available to both citizens and non-citizens.
  • It protects the individuals not only against the actions of the State but also against the actions of private persons.

Traffic in Human Beings

  • The expression ‘Traffic in Human Beings’ includes the following activities:
    • selling and buying of men, women, and children as commodities,
    • immoral trafficking in women and children, including prostitution,
    • the practice of devadasis,
    • the practice of slavery, etc.
  • To punish these Acts, the Parliament has enacted the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act of 1956.

Forced Labour

  • Forced Labour: The term ‘forced labor’ means compelling a person to work against his/her will by using physical force, legal force, or compulsion of economic circumstances such as working for less than minimum wages. Some examples of Forced Labour include Begar, Bonded Labour, etc.
  • Begar: The term ‘begar‘ refers to a peculiar form of forced labor that was prevalent in India during the time of the Zamindari System. Under it, the local zamindars used to force their tenants to render services without any payment or remuneration.
  • The following laws enacted by the Parliament prevent and punish various forms of forced labor:
    • Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976,
    • Minimum Wages Act, 1948,
    • Contract Labour Act, 1970,
    • Equal Remuneration Act, 1976.
  • Exception: An exception to this provision is that the state can impose compulsory service for public purposes such as military service, social service, etc, for which it is not bound to pay. However, in imposing such service, the state cannot discriminate based only on grounds of religion, race, case, or class.

Prohibition of Employment of Children in Factories, etc. (Article 24)

  • This provision prohibits the employment of children under the age of 14 in factories, mines, or other such hazardous activities. However, it does not forbid their employment in harmless or non-hazardous activities.
  • The Parliament has enacted the following laws to implement this provision:
    • Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 and its further amendments.
    • Employment of Children Act, 1938
    • Factories Act, 1948
    • Mines Act, 1952
    • Merchant Shipping Act, 1958
    • Plantation Labour Act, 1951
    • Motor Transport Workers Act, 1951
    • Apprentices Act, 1961
    • Bidi and Cigar Workers Act, 1966
  • Some other initiatives taken by the government in this direction include:
    • The creation of a Child Labor Rehabilitation Welfare Fund in which the offending employer deposits a specified amount of fine for each child employed by him.
    • National Commission and State Commissions for the Protection of Child Rights have been established.
    • Children’s Courts have been established for speedy trial of offenses against children.
Salient Features of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act of 2016
– Prohibits employment of children up to 14 years in all occupations and processes, except those run by their own family provided their education is not hampered.
– It has added a new category of adolescents, i.e. Children between 14 and 18 years of age, and bars their employment in any hazardous occupations.
– Requires creation of a Child Labor Rehabilitation Welfare Fund (as directed by the Supreme Court in 1996).
– Reduces the number of hazardous occupations from 83 to 3, which includes mining, inflammable substances, and hazardous processes under the Factories Act.
– Makes child labor a cognizable offense (Cognizable offenses involve arrest without a warrant).

Significance of Right Against Exploitation

  • Protection of Human Rights – The right against exploitation safeguards individuals from various forms of exploitation, ensuring their fundamental rights and dignity.
  • Prevention of Human Trafficking – By prohibiting trafficking in human beings, this right helps prevent the illegal and immoral trade of individuals for forced labor, slavery, or other purposes.
  • Elimination of Forced Labor – It aims to eradicate forced labor practices, such as bonded labor and begar, ensuring individuals are not subjected to work against their will without remuneration.
  • Safeguarding Children – This right prohibits the employment of children in hazardous occupations, protects their physical, mental, and emotional well-being, and ensures their access to education and a healthy childhood.
  • Promotion of Social Justice – By holding both the state and private individuals accountable for exploitation, this right contributes to fostering a more just and equitable society.
  • Support for Vulnerable Populations – It provides crucial support and protection to vulnerable groups, including women, children, and marginalized communities, who are often targets of exploitation and abuse.
  • Promotion of Ethical Labor Practices – By prohibiting exploitative labor practices, this right encourages the adoption of ethical labor standards and practices, promoting fair treatment and just compensation for all workers.

The Right Against Exploitation enshrined in the Indian Constitution serves as a bulwark against various forms of exploitation, ensuring the protection of individuals’ rights and dignity. By safeguarding against forced labor, human trafficking, and child exploitation, this fundamental right upholds the principles of social justice and human rights within society. Through its provisions, India reaffirms its commitment to fostering a just, equitable, and compassionate society based on dignity, fairness, and compassion.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Which three evils are tackled by the Right Against Exploitation?

The Right Against Exploitation tackles three primary evils:

Forced Labor – It ensures individuals are not compelled to work against their will.
Human Trafficking – It prevents the illegal trade and exploitation of individuals
Child Exploitation – It safeguards children from hazardous employment and abusive practices.

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