Constitution of India : Article 23: Prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labour

Article 23:  Prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labour

(1) Traffic in human beings and beggar and other similar forms of forced labor are prohibited and any contravention of this provision shall be an offense punishable in accordance with the law. (2) 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 or class or any of them

Background

Article 17, Draft Constitution, 1948 (1) Traffic in human beings and beggar and other similar forms of forced labor are prohibited and any contravention of this provision shall be an offense punishable in accordance with the law. (2) Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from imposing compulsory service for public purposes. In imposing such service the State shall not make any discrimination on the ground of race, religion, caste, or class. Draft Article 17 (Article 23) was debated in the Assembly on 3rd December 1948. It prohibited human trafficking and forced labor. It was proposed that in addition to the specific mention of ‘begar’, the Article also makes mention of ‘devadasi’ – the social practice of dedicating young women to temples which amounted to trafficking. In response, a member argued that this practice could be wiped out through ordinary legislation; moreover, public opinion had already mobilized against the practice. Further, he contended that the Draft Article was intended to apply only to social practices which had the support of vested interests. This amendment was rejected. One member wanted to provide compensation for individuals performing compulsory service. The Chairman of the Drafting Committee argued that this was unnecessary since such a service may not impact the ability of a person to earn their livelihood. This amendment was later withdrawn. The Draft Article was adopted with a minor amendment on 3rd December 1948.