Often we come across instances where we see children and people being exploited or forced to work or beg due to poverty, destitution, want, or any other reason. Many women and children are forced into human trafficking; many workers are forced to work at a cheaper rate beyond their will or interest. The Right to Life and Liberty is guaranteed to every citizen by the Indian Constitution under Article 21. However, this right includes the right to live with dignity, which can be ensured if the citizens are protected against exploitation. The Indian Constitution aims to eradicate such practices and acts that take away the dignity and freedom of any people. Therefore, the Right against Exploitation has been enshrined in Articles 23 and 24 of the Indian Constitution. This article will discuss the importance and feature of the right against exploitation. What is Article 23, what does Article 24 provides for, what is Compulsory Service for a public purpose, what is NCPCR, and what is the legislation for the protection of Child Rights?
What are the importance and features of Right against Exploitation?
Right against exploitation means various forms of oppression and enslavements. It includes exploitation such as bonded labour, beggar, prison labour, forced labour, and the most vulnerable human trafficking. It further consists of the exploitation of children below the age of 14 years. Article 23 and 24 of the Indian Constitution guarantees human dignity and protects people from any kind of exploitation.
What is Article 23?
Article 23: Prohibition on Trafficking in Human Beings and Forced Labour
Article 23 (1) prohibits begging, human trafficking, and other similar kinds of forced labour. It further provides that any acts in contravention with this Article shall be liable to punishment according to the law.
Important features of Article 23:
Begar: A person is forced to work without any remuneration. It is a kind of forced labour.
Human trafficking: selling and purchasing of human beings especially for forced prostitution, sexual slavery, or forced labour.
Other similar kinds of forced labour: A person is forced to work for wages lower than the minimum wages. E.g., Bonded Labour – where a person is forced to work for inadequate wages to pay off his debt.
Prison Labour – where a prisoner under rigorous imprisonment is forced to work without any or minimum wages.
What is Compulsory service for Public Purposes under Article 23?
Article 23 (2) provides that the State is permitted to impose compulsory service for a public purpose, provided that the State does not discriminate on the ground of race, religion, class, caste, etc. while imposing such service. This is an exception to the above article, as it allows the State to impose compulsory service on the people for the public purpose only, in which the interest of the general public is involved such as; removal of illiteracy, national defence, other public utility services (like postal service, air, water and rail services, electricity, etc.).
In The State Vs. Jorawar, the National Service Act, 1972 provides that to compel a person to render social services such as part of a campaign to reduce mass illiteracy or render medical or other professional services in remote parts of the country are held to be valid.
In Dulal Samanta Vs. District Magistrate Howrah, to compel the residence of a locality to assist the police to suppress disturbance of peace in that area under Section 17 of The Police Act, 1861 was held to be valid.
What is Article 24?
Article 24: Prohibition of employment of children in factories.
This Article prohibits employment of a child below fourteen years in any factory, mine, or any other hazardous employment. It forbids the employment of young children in any unhealthy or dangerous conditions which would harm their physical and mental health.
Child labour is a cruel practice that takes away the childhood fun of the child and forces them to work due to their socio-economic incapacity. These works are of such nature that is unsuitable to their physical strength and age.
The areas where child labour is prohibited are:
The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, has listed the occupation and processes where children below the age of fourteen years are prohibited to work, namely; transport of goods, passengers, or mails by railways, works relating to construction of railway station, cinder picking, cleaning of ash-pit or bidi making, building operations in the railway premises, mica-cutting and splitting, manufacturing of matches, cloth printing, dyeing, and weaving, building, and construction industries, soap manufacturing, etc.
Article 39 (f) of the Directive Principles of State Policy (Part IV) has directed the State to impose policy to ensure that the childhood and youth are protected against exploitation, by providing facilities and opportunities to the child so that they can develop in a healthy environment with freedom and dignity.
In M.C. Mehta Vs. State of Tamil Nadu, the Supreme Court of India had laid down directions under the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, and thereby directed the State Government to implement the legislative purpose of the enactment. The court had further directed the employer to pay Rs 20,000 to every child employed as his labour and appointed a police officer to check for its implementation.
However, Article 24 does not prohibit the child from working in a healthy, safe, and harmless workplace such as grocery shopping, agricultural fields, etc.
What are the Legislations for the protection of Child Rights?
Child labour is a universal phenomenon and is the most significant cause of concern for the entire world. There are various International Charters and Covenants that have made provisions to abolish child labour; some of these are the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989 (UNCRC). The Indian Parliament had also made several legislations for the protection of Child Rights and strictly prohibited child labour.
Some of these legislations are:
The Employment of Children Act, 1938
This act prohibits the employment of children below the age of fourteen years in the railways or other means of transport.
The Factories Act, 1948, the Mines Act, 1952, and the Apprentices Act, 1961
These acts condemn the employment of children below the age of fourteen years in any factories, mines, and trades as an apprentice for practical and basic training.
The Child Labour (Protection and Regulation) Act, 1986,
This act has listed the occupations where children below the age of fourteen are strictly prohibited.
The Plantation Labour Act, 1951
This act mandates periodical fitness checkups for the children employed(above the age of 12 years).
The Motor Transport Workers Act, 1961,
This act prohibits the employment of children under the age of 15 years in the transport sector.
The Beedi and Cigar Workers (Condition of Employment) Act, 1966
This act prohibits employment of children below the age of 14 years in industrial premises of manufacturing bidis and cigars.
The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000
This act provides for the development, protection, care, and rehabilitation of neglected or delinquent juveniles. This Act also established the ‘Juvenile Justice Board’.
NCPCR – The National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights
This Commission was established in 2007 by the Indian Government under the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005. It is established at both the Centre and the State level. In the event of any cases or trial against the child, or violation of child rights, this Commission works as a speedy trial of the Children’s Court. The objective of this Commission is to ensure all the policies, provisions, acts, laws, programs and administrative mechanisms comply with the provisions of the Child Rights as provided by the Constitution of India and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Right against exploitation has been provided under Articles 23 and 24 of the Indian Constitution and various International Covenants. In spite of various measures introduced by the Government to curb the exploitation of human beings, such practices still prevail in the different parts of the country. The need of the hour that the most terrifying, immoral, and shameful acts of exploitation of humans be eradicated and the most vulnerable part of the society be protected and given a chance to live with dignity.