Constitution of Bangladesh prohibits all forms of forced labor and provides for punishment accordingly. Analyze and evaluate in relation to the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution.


Constitution: A constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed.[1] The concept of Constitution is concerned with the role and powers of the institutions within the state and relationship between the citizen and the state. Every state is an organization which is run by a group of people known as the Government which means the executives, the legislative and the judiciary. There are rules and authority under which government must run the state. These sets of fundamental principles are called constitution.[2]

Constitution of Bangladesh: The Constitution of Bangladesh came into operation in December, 1972. It was robust document. Not only did it embody the principles of constitutionalism, rule of law and human rights, it made specific provisions for realization of these lofty ideas.[3]

Fundamental Rights: Rights are those claims of individuals which are recognized by society and enforced by the state. The rights are basic and essential in the life of individual. They are, in other words, fundamental for every citizen’s life. These rights which are mentioned in the constitution of a country are known as “fundamental rights”.[4]A basic or foundational right, derived from natural law: a right deemed by the Supreme Court to receive the highest level of constitutional protection against interference.[5]

Fundamental Rights of Bangladesh Constitution: The fundamental rights of the people of Bangladesh have been enriched in the constitution of the country. Fundamental rights give the citizens dignity of life in an atmosphere of freedom and justice beyond the man-made fetters that had constricted their physical and mental horizons. [6]

The fundamental rights in Bangladesh are listed under Articles 27 to 44 of part III, and the jurisdiction of the high court Division of the Supreme Court enforce the rights is defined in Article 102 of part Vl of the Constitution of 1972.[7]

Forced Labor When an individual is forced to work against their will, under threat of violence or other punishment, with restriction on their freedom is called forced labor.[8]

Forced labor is not a new phenomenon.[9]The existence of this type of labor has both new and old dimensions to it, and there is growing consensus that the incidence of forced labor is on the rise (Bales 2000, International Labor Organization (ILO) 2001a, 2001b).[10] The preamble of the Constitution states that it shall be a fundamental aim of the State to realise a socialism society in which the rule of law, fundamental human rights and freedom, equality and justice will be ensured.[11]

 Prohibition of forced labor

 According to Bangladesh constitution all form of forced labor are prohibited and any contravention of this provision shell be an offence publishable in accordance with law.[12]

Nothing in this article shell apply to compulsory labor-

  • By person’s undergoing lawful punishment for a criminal offence or
  • Required by any law for public proposal[13]

Like most constitution framed after the Second World War, our Constitution too contains a chapter on Fundamental Rights. The Preamble declares that to realize “fundamental human rights and freedom” is a fundamental aim of the State. What is “the State”? Article 152 gives an inclusive definition. It “includes Parliament, the Government and statutory public authorizes.” Article 26(1) and (2) not only makes all existing laws inconsistent with fundamental rights void to the extent of such inconsistency but also enjoins upon the State not to make any law inconsistent with fundamental rights and declares that “any law made shall, to the extent of such inconsistency, be void.”[14] The corresponding provision of the Indian Constitution is article 23 which stipulates that traffic in human being and beggar and other similar forms of forced labor are prohibited. It is beyond the dignity of a person to be compelled to labor when he would not do so voluntarily. It includes every forms of labor which is supplied under compulsion and not willingly and it is immaterial whether remuneration is paid or not. In the same way, forced labor is involved when a men is obliged to work at wages below the minimum wages.[15] Traffic in women and children also involve forced labor. [16]Labor may be forced not only owing to psychical force but also account of a legal provision such as imprisonment or fine in case an employee fails to provide service and also owing to hunger and poverty which compels a person to except employment for  a remuneration which is less than the statutory minimum wages.[17] Where a contract for personal service is enforceable under a penal law, the prohibition is attracted. Article 34 will be attracted where the penalty for default in regarding service is found on custom or administrative fiat or in the payment of alleged debt.[18] But compulsion to do overtime is not forced labor because when the rules make liability to work overtime a term of employment, no question of force labor is involved as the worker entered into the employment contract voluntarily.[19]

Article 34(2) provides the exception to article 34(1). Compulsory labor by a person undergoing lawful punishment for a criminal offence or compulsory labor required by any law for a public purpose shall not attract the prohibition of article 34(1). The expression ‘public purpose’ is wide enough to include military and policy service[20] as also social service.[21]

Enforcement of fundamental rights

 Article 44(1) provides that the right to move the Supreme Court for enforcement of any of the fundamental rights is itself a fundamental right. [22]

Article 44(2) enables Parliament to confer the jurisdiction to enforce fundamental rights on any other court, but such conferment cannot be in derogation of the power of Supreme Court under article 102(1) which means that such other court may be given concurrent, but not exclusive, power of enforcement of fundamental rights. The Supreme Court must always have the power of enforcement of fundamental rights. [23]

Laws inconsistent with fundamental rights to be void

Article 26(1) provides that all existing laws inconsistent with the fundamental rights as provided in Part III shall to the extent of the inconsistency become void on the commencement of the Constitution and State shall not make any aw inconsistent with those rights.[24] In 1967 the Indian Supreme Court held in Golak Nath v. Punjab[25] that a constitutional amendment by Act of Parliament was a ‘law’ within the purview of article 13(2) (corresponding to article 26 (2) of the constitution (First Amendment) Act[26], 1973 was passed incorporating clause (3) in art. 26 which states, “Nothing in this article shall apply to any amendment of this Constitution made under article 142”. Similar amendment has been made in article 142.


From the above discussion we can drew a conclusion that forced labor is prohibited according to our constitution and fundamental rights of the people are significantly related with the issue of forced labor. However, constitution ensured people’s fundamental rights and provides the authority to claim on the Supreme Court if anyone becomes the victims of forced labor.

[1] The New Oxford American Dictionary, Second Edn., Erin McKean (editor), 2051 pages, May 2005, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-517077-6.

[2] Md. Abdul Halim, Constitution, Constitutional Law and Politics: Bangladesh Perspective, 4th Edition, Pg. 24,. 4th Para

[3] Mahmudul Isalm, Constitutional Law of Bangladesh, 1st Edition, pg.1. 2nd Para .

[4] Amos, Sheldon; “The Science of Law”, 1885, “Legal Definition of Law”,, Accessed: October 6, 2011

[5] Mustafa Kamal, Bangladesh Constitution: Trends and Issues, 2nd Edition, Pg 76, 3rd Para

[6] Mahmudul Islam, Constitutional Law of Bangladesh, 1st Edition, Pg.83.3rd Para.

[7] Bangladesh Constitution, Part 3, “Fundamental Rights”, Article 26-47.

[8] Anti-Slavery-Forced Labor,, Accessed: October 7,2011

[9] In the literature forced labor and slavery is commonly interchanged to mean the same (Bales 2000,

ILO 2001)

[10] Kanchana N. Ruwanpura and Pallavi Rai,” Forced Labor: Definition, Indicators and Measurement”, International Labour Office Geneva, March 2004

[11] Mahmudul Islam, Constitutional Law of Bangladesh, 1st Edition, Pg.76. 2nd Para.

[12] Article 34 (1)

[13] Article 34 (2)

[14] Mustafa Kamal, Bangladesh Constitution: Trends and Issues, 2nd Edition, Pg 76, 3rd Para

[15] Sanjit v.Rajasthan, AIR 1983 SC 328; BIWTA v. BIWTA Ghat Sramik Union, 1982 and unloding of goods inland ports though coolies does not result in forced labor

[16] Raj Bahadur v. Legal remembrance, AIR 1953 Cal 522; Nihal v. Rambai, AIR 1987 MP 126

[17] People ‘s Union v. India, AIR 1982 SC 1473

[18] Ibid: Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. India. AIR SC 804: Kahaosan v. Simirei, AIR 1961 Manipur 1: Chandra v. Rajasthan. AIR 1956 Raj 188

[19] Dalmia Cement Ltd v. Dalmia Cement Worker’s Union. PLD 1958 SC 153

[20] Dulal v.District Magistrate. AIR 1958 Cal 365

[21] Acharaj v. Bihar. AIR 1967 Pat 114 (cultivator compelled to carry food grains without remuneration to government godown in a scheme of procurement of food grains as an essential commodity.

[22] Article 44(1): The right to move the High Court Division in accordance with clause (I) of article 102 for the enforcement of the rights conferred by this Part of guaranteed. The right to move the High Court Division in accordance with clause (I) of article 102 for the enforcement of the rights conferred by this Part of guaranteed.

[23] Article 44(2): Without prejudice to the powers of the High Court Division under article 102, Parliament may be law empowers any other court, within the local limits of its jurisdiction, to exercise all or any of those powers.

[24] Article 26(1): All existing law inconsistent with the provisions of this Part shall, to the extent of such inconsistency, become void on the commencement of this Constitution.

[25] AIR 1967 SC 1643 (overruled in Kesavanand Bharati v. Kerala, AIR 1973 SC 1461)

[26] Article 26(2): The State shall not make any law inconsistent with any provisions of this Part, and any law so made shall, to the extent of such inconsistency, be void.