Section 23

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Coercive, unfair or deceptive recruitment Corporate criminal liability Criminal liability Debt bondage Forced labour Group or joint liability

Section 23 provides for the liability of corporate bodies for the commission of an offence under the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976. Under this provision, where an offence is committed by the company, both the company and the persons in charge of the management of the company are liable. This provision clarifies that where the commission of the offence is attributable to the consent, connivance or neglect of a person, that person is also liable under the Act.

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Section 23. Offences by companies.

(1) Where an offence under this Act has been committed by a company, every person who, at the time the offence was committed, was in charge of, and was responsible to, the company for the conduct of the business of the company, as well as the company, shall be deemed to be guilty of the offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly.

(2) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (1), where any offence under this Act has been committed by a company and it is proved that offence has been committed with the consent or connivance of, or is attributable to, any neglect on the part of, any director, manager, secretary or other officer of the Company, such director, manager, secretary or other officer shall be deemed to be guilty of that offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly.

Law / India / Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976

The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 provides for the abolition of the bonded labour system, with a view to preventing the exploitation of vulnerable sections of society.

This Act prohibits, criminalises and extinguishes any system of debt bondage, whether by agreement, custom or contract. The Act aims to achieve the following: (i) every bonded labourer is discharged from any obligation to provide such labour; (ii) the obligation to repay any bonded debt is extinguished; (iii) the property of bonded labourers shall be free of mortgage, charge, lien or other encumbrances and shall be restored to his possession; (iv) a bonded labourer shall not be evicted from a homestead or other residential premise he was occupying as part of the consideration for the bonded labour; and (v) no creditor may accept payment against an extinguished debt.

Indian courts have given a very broad, expansive interpretation to the definition of bonded labour. For example, where a person has provided labour or services to another and received a remuneration below the minimum wage, the Courts have ruled that the labour or service falls clearly within the scope of the prohibition of forced labour under the constitution.