India, the largest democracy in the world, was formerly a nation where both adults and children were subjected to slavery and other forms of abuse. There were a number of instances of slavery, exploitation, and widespread use of forced labor in India prior to the adoption of the Indian Constitution. However, these traditions were eliminated with the passage of time and the establishment of the Constitution (Article 23 in the Constitution of India 1949).

However, even after these laws and regulations, there were still many barbaric practices toward people, such as in Rajasthan, the Northeastern states, some regions of UP, Bihar, and other places where untouchability, forced labor, human trafficking, etc. are practiced and society turns a blind eye.

There are still a lot of places where women are subjected to discrimination due to their gender and other issues. For example, some places forbade women from entering during the weeks leading up to their periods without providing a clear justification.

What does Article 23 states ?

Prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labour

(1) Traffic in human beings and beggar 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 purpose, 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.

Important terms
Terms Details
BeggarForced labor, which is defined as unpaid, involuntary employment, is present in this situation. In other words, it may be claimed that a person is made to work against their choice without being paid.
Bonded LabourArticle 23 forbids bond labor since it is seen as a type of forced labor. Under this system, a person is required to labor in order to pay off his debt. They make a very little salary while being compensated twice as much for the work they do. The next generations usually inherit these loans. It is therefore referred to as a form of forced labor.
Human TraffickingIt entails the immoral trafficking of both women and children and alludes to the treatment of individuals as things to be bought and sold. Although it is not specifically addressed in Article 23, slavery is included in the concept of “trade in human persons.” In line with Article 23, Parliament approved the Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Girls Act in 1956 to make human trafficking illegal.
Landmark cases regarding Article 23

Peoples Union for Democratic Rights v. Union of India, AIR 1982 SC1943.

  • The petitioner in People’s Union for Democratic Rights v. Union of India was a group established to defend democratic rights. It made an attempt to look into the working conditions of the laborers hired for various Asiad projects. Following this investigation’s discovery of several labor law violations, public interest lawsuit was started.
  • In this case, the Supreme Court gave its interpretation of article 23’s reach. According to the Court, the term “force” in this article has a fairly broad definition. Physical force, legal force, and other economic pressures that compel someone to perform labor for less than the minimum wage are all included in this definition. As a result, it would be considered forced labor if someone is obliged to work for less than the minimum wage just because they are poor, destitute, or hungry.
  • The Court further defined what “all similar forms of forced labor” meant in the context of article 23 of the Indian Constitution. It said that all types of forced , not only beggar work, are forbidden. This indicates that as long as someone is made to perform labor against their will, it does not matter whether they are paid or not.

There are numerous instances of human trafficking in the northeastern states, but the government has not been able to identify the root of the problem or take effective action to stop it.
However, the Indian Constitution guarantees everyone’s freedom and nobility, thus there is no room for exploitation, servitude, or abuse. However, since 1982, these articles have taken on a great deal of significance and have developed into potent tools in the hands of the courts for addressing the despicable condition of the nation’s impoverished.



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