Article 23



Forced labour

Article 23 of the Indian Constitution explicitly prohibits and criminalises human trafficking and forced labour.


While the Constitution of India does not define forced labour, the Supreme Court of India has read this provision expansively, and provided specific guidance on the definition. In the case of People’s Union for Democratic Rights vs. Union of India and Others, 1982, the Supreme Court of India determined that forced labour should be defined as any labour for which the worker receives less than the government-stipulated minimum wage: “ordinarily no one would willingly supply labour or service to another for less than the minimum wage… [unless] he is acting under the force of some compulsion which drives him to work though he is paid less than what he is entitled under law to receive.”

The offences mentioned in Article 23(1) above have been laid out in subsequent enactments – including the Bonded Labour Abolition Act of 1976 and the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986.

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Article 23. Prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labour
(1) Traffic in human beings and begar 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 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.

Constitutional / 26 January 1950 /India / Constitution of India

The Constitution of India, under Part III guarantees certain fundamental rights to its citizens, which are enforceable against the state under Article 32 (Remedies for enforcement of rights) and Article 226 (Power of High Courts to issue certain writs).

The Constitution of India includes fundamental rights that protect workers from discrimination and exploitation. Under its expansive writ/review jurisdiction, the Supreme Court of India has widened these fundamental rights, and read in labour rights under various other provisions of the Constitution.