Traffic social life without any pre-stigma attached to them.

Traffic in human beings- It means to deal in men and women like goods such
as to sell or let out or otherwise dispose them off. It includes immoral
traffic in women or girls or subjecting children to immoral or such like
practices. For this sake, the Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Girls
Act, 1956 had been put in operation. The validity of this Act has been upheld
by laying down that it is not inconsistent with the fundamental right to carry
on a business, trade or profession.1
Devdasis are also covered under the term ‘traffic in human beings.’ Though ‘slavery’
is not expressly mentioned, there is no doubt that the expression ‘traffic in
human being’ would cover it.2
It may be noted that under Section 370, IPC, whoever imports, exports, removes,
buys, sells or disposes off any person as a slave shall be punished with
imprisonment.

Children
of the prostitution have a right to equality of opportunity, dignity, care, protection
and rehabilitation so as to be part of the mainstream of social life.3The
case highlights the practice of prostitution prevalent in the States of A.P.,
Karntaka and Maharashtra under the veil of customary practice of Devdasis,
Jogins and Venkatasins and its evil effects. Taking note of the relevant
provisions of the Constitution, viz Article 23,21,14,13,15,16,39.39(f),46,32
etc. and the provisions of Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 and Juvenile
Justice Act, 1986 the Supreme Court came to the conclusion that prostitutes
have a right to enter the social mainstream and their children have right to
equality pf opportunity, dignity, care, protection and rehabilitation so as to
be part of the mainstream of social life without any pre-stigma attached to
them.

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The Apex
Court in the above cases, made suggestions like: Children of prostitutes,
including child prostitutes should be treated as ‘neglected juveniles’ as
defined in Juvenile Justice Act and no stigma should be attached to them. They should
be rescued from the ‘red light areas’ and shifted to “juvenile homes” for a
short stay to relieve them from the trauma they may have suffered, and
thereafter obligation to establish juvenile homes and Union of India and State
Governments were to evolve, in a ministerial level conference, procedure and
principles regarding rescue and rehabilitation of the prostitutes for efficacious
enforcing of their fundamental rights and human rights.

‘Begar and other forced labour’ 

‘Begar’
means forcing a person to do some work against the will and that on the basis
of non-payment or grossly inadequate payment. However, this condition shall not
apply to a case where forced labour is a part of punishment as in a prison
house or some such work forms part of the service condition or agreement. Under
the old zamindari system, the tenants wre sometimes forced to render free
service to their landlords. This was called bega. The sagri or hali system in
some parts of Rajasthan is an example of forced labour. Under it, a creditor
gives a loan to a debtor on the condition that until the loan is repaid with
interest, the debtor (or any of his family members) is to render labour to
personal service to the creditor.

In Kahaosan
Thangkhul v Simirei Shailei, the custom which seemed to prevail in the State
was that each householder in a village would have to offer one day’s free
labour tp the headman of the village. The custom was held as being violative of
Article 23. It has been held that even if some remuneration is paid, the labour
may be a forced one.4

‘Bonded
Labour is a form of forced labour that is forbidden. In the ‘Asiad case’5,
the Supreme Court gave a wide meaning to the word ‘force’. Force is not mere
physical or legal force but also force arising from the compulsion of economic
circumstances. The person in want has no choice. He may even agree to pay a
part if his wages to a middleman.

It may
be noted that as a result of Article 23, as many as 12 Acts sanctioning forced
labour, under certain circumstances becomes void on the enactment of the
Constitution. The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 has brought
freedom within the reach of many persons who were being forced to work, alongwith
their family in some cases, by contractors.

Compulsory
service for public purposes

It may
be noted that Article 23(2) do not prohibit the State from imposing compulsory
service for public purposes e.g. social or military service in times of emergencies
like war, floods etc. or assisting the police in trying circumstances. It has
been held that conscription for social service, as for instance spread of
literacy, is a public purpose.6
Even when the State undertakes famine relief work it cannot pay less than the minimum
wage. The State cannot take advantage of their helplessness. If it does so it
would be violative of Article 23.7

In State
of Gujarat v Hon’ble High Court of Gujarat8
held that exaction of hard labour from convicted prisoners is not forced
labour, but they are entitled to equitable wages. Thomas J. held that if
exaction of hard labour is without payment of wages, it would amount to forced
labour prohibited under Article 23(1). But protection  under clause (1) is subject to exception
contained in clause (2) of Article 23 regarding impostiton of compulsory
service by the State for public purpose. ‘Since according to modern thinking
main objective of punishment is ‘reformation’ which is a public purpose,
imposition of hard labour on the convicted prisoner on payment of minimum wages
would serve the public purpose of his reformation and rehabilitation and hence
would be saved under clause (2). But the under-trials, persons sentenced to
simple imprisonment and those detained under a preventive detention Act cannot
be asked to do manual work. Such persons may be permitted to do any work of
their choice. It is also held by the Court that putting a convicted prisoner to
hard labour cannot be equated with ‘begar’ or ‘other similar forms of forced
labour’ and there is no violation of Article 23. Wages are payable only under
the provisions of the Prisons Act. Though prison reforms are a  must and prisoners doing hard labour are now
being paid wages, but the message must be loud and clear that ‘crime does not
pay,’

1  Shama v State of U.P. AIR
1959 All.57

2  Dubar v Union of India AIR
1952 Cal. 496

3  Gaurav Jain v Union of India
AIR 1997 SC 3021

4 PUDR v Union of India AIR 1982 SC 1473

5

6 State v Jorawar AIR 1953 A.P. 328

7 Sanjit Roy v State of Rajasthan AIR 1983 SC 328

8 (199)8 7 SCC 393