Decided on October 13,1983



P.S.POTI - (1.) Bonded labour in its primitive form might have disfrom most parts of the country more due to pressure of public Opinion and civic consciousness than the awareness or the operation of Art. 23 of our Constitution embodying a mandate against forced labour. But all the same sophisticated forms of such bonded labour persist and thrive in many pockets the task of identifying then and locating the exploited groups is none too easy. Exploitation of labour being a phenomena older than the known authentic history of man cannot be banished over night by any legislative or constitutional fiat or even by enlightened public opinion. The Courts in this country are to be the sentinels of human freedom and this duty enjoins them to be ever vigilant to extend protection to the exploited class. In recent times Courts have understood their adjudicatory functions as not merely limited to settlement of inter-party disputes or issues raised but as envisaging a larger role in securing constitutional rights to parties who might not have them selves made an approach to the Court despite violent inroad into their rights on account of poverty or ignorance or any other equally relevant social disability. The story unfolded in this case is an instance which called for our immediate attention.
(2.) The content of Art. 21 of the Constitution and the scope of Art. 23 have been examined in recent cases by the Supreme Court and the following principles have become well settled: (1) Art. 23 strikes at forced labour in whatever form it may manifest itself because it is violation of human dignity and contrary to basic values. (2)Even if remuneration is paid labour supplied not willingly but as a result of force or compulsion will be hit by Art. 23. In that view a contract to continue for a term cannot be enforced once the worker is unwilling to work and that would be despite the contract. (3)The scope of force envisaged in the term forced labour in Art. 23 takes in not only physical or legal force but also force arising from the compulsion of economic circumstances which leaves no choice of alternatives to a person in want and compels him to provide labour or service for less than the wages due to him under law (Vide PEOPLES UNION FOR DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS AND OTHERS V. UNION OF INDIA AND OTHERS A.1.R. 1982 S. C. 1473 AND SANJIT ROY V. STATE OF RAJASTHAN A.I.R. 1983 S. C. 328.)
(3.) By parity of reasoning when due to economic compulsions are forced to work under inhuman conditions or sub-human without the safeguards facilities and amenities secured to under law being made available to them irrespective of the que of wages paid to them and their apparent consent the labour would be forced labour so as to invite contravention of 23 of the Constitution of India.;

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