(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

Debate Summary

Article 17, Draft Constitution of India, 1948

(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. In imposing such service the State shall not make any discrimination on the ground of race, religion, caste or class.

 

Draft Article 17 was debated in the Assembly on 3 December 1948.

It was proposed that in addition to the specific mention of ‘begar’, the Article also make mention of ‘devadasi’ – the social practice of dedicating young women to temples which amounted to trafficking. This proposal found scepticism: it was argued that the wiping out of Devadasi practice could happen through ordinary legislation and there was already sufficient mobilisation around public opinion around this; only those social practices which had the support of vested interests, should be specifically mentioned in the Article’s text.

One of the members wanted the Article to ensure that any individuals who provide compulsory service sought by the state under the second clause of the article should be adequately compensated. This was however countered by another member who felt that the clause did not require any changes and was fine as long as 1. the service sought by the State did not affect the individual’s capacity to earn a living 2. whenever the service is demanded, it is demanded from all, and nobody is paid.

At voting, the Assembly made a minor amendment (only was added after ‘discrimination on the ground’) and then adopted the Draft Article.