Right against exploitation enshrined in Article 23 and 24 of the Indian Constitution guarantees human dignity and protects people from any such exploitation. According to the 2018 Global slavery survey report stated that there has been a further addition of forced sexual exploitation and child labor in the country. Thus, upholding the principles of human dignity and liberty upon which the Indian Constitution is based.
Factors causing exploitation of consumers are:
(1) Limited or Lack of Information and Goods or services of substandard quality.
(2) Limited supplies and overpricing of items.
(3) Limited competition
(4) Articles harmful for health
(5) Unsatisfactory after-sales services Sale not in accordance with predetermined conditions
(6) Low literacy
(7) Lack of bargaining power
(8) Irregular prices offered
(9) Misleading advertisements
(10) Lack of unity
(11) Cumbersome and time taking legal proceedings etc.
Article 23 has a very wide scope by ensuring that a person is not forced to do anything involuntarily. For example: It forbids a land-owner to force a landless, poor laborer to render free services, it also forbids forcing a woman or child into prostitution. Article 23(1) of Indian Constitution states that:
(1) prohibits the trafficking of human beings; beggar any similar form of forced labor. It also states that any contravention of this provision is punishable by the law. It explicitly prohibits:
- Human Trafficking: It refers to the sale and purchase of human beings mostly for the purpose of sexual slavery, forced prostitution or forced labor.
- Beggar: It is a form of forced labor which refers to forcing a person to work for no remuneration.
- Other forms of forced labor: It includes other forms of forced labor in which the person works for a wage less than the minimum wage. This includes bonded labor wherein a person is forced to work to pay off his debt for inadequate remuneration, prison labor wherein prisoners sent in for rigorous imprisonment are forced to work without even minimum remuneration etc.
Article 39 of the Constitution states that it is the duty of the state to ensure that the tender age of children is not abused and that they are not forced by economic necessity to enter into fields of work where they are forced to provide labor which is unsuitable to their age and strength
Article 24 states that any child under the age of fourteen years cannot be employed as a worker in any factory or be engaged in any other hazardous employment. Hence it prohibits the employment of children under the age of 14 years in dangerous or unhealthy conditions which could harm their mental and physical strength.
People Union for Democratic Rights v. Union of India, AIR 1982 SC1943.
Supreme Court in this case interpreted the scope of Article 23. It includes physical force, legal force and other economic factors which force a person to provide labor at a wage less than the minimum wage. Hence, if a person is forced to provide labor for less than the minimum wage, just because of poverty, want, destitution or hunger, it would be accounted as forced labor. The Court futher clarified the meaning of “all similar forms of forced labor” as mentioned in article 23 of the Constitution of India. It states that not only beggar, but all forms of forced labor are prohibited. This means that it would not matter if a person is given remuneration or not as long as he is forced to supply labor against his will.
Sanjit Roy v. State of Rajasthan, AIR 1983 SC 328
The Court in this case held that the Rajasthan Famine Relief Works Employees are the Exemption from Labor Laws Act, 1964 as it is constitutionally invalid as to the exclusion of the minimum wages act.
People’s Union for Democratic Rights v. Union of India, AIR 1983 SC 1473
In this case the petitioner observed the conditions in which the workers employed in various projects were working. It was observed that children under the age of fourteen had been employed. It was however contended that such employment was not against the Employment of Children Act, 1938 since the act did not list the construction industry as a hazardous industry. The Court held that the construction work falls in the field of hazardous employment. Thus, children under the age of fourteen must not be employed in the construction work even though it has not been mentioned explicitly under the Employment of Children Act 1938. The Court also advised the state government to amend the schedule and change the omission to include the construction industry into the list of hazardous industries.
M.C. Mehta v. State of Tamil Nadu, AIR 1997 SC 699
In this case Article 32 was invoked, enabling the Court to look into the violation of fundamental rights of children guaranteed to them under Article 24. The Court observed, qualified as a hazardous industry. Thus employing children under the age of 14 years in this industry is prohibited. The Court reaffirmed that children below the age of fourteen must not be employed in any hazardous industry and it must be seen that all children are given education till the age of 14 years. The Court also considered Article 39(e) which says that the tender age of children must not be abused and they must be given opportunities to develop in a healthy manner. In light of this, the Court held that the employer Siva Kasi must pay a compensation of Rs. 20000 for employing children in contravention to Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986.