Explain the relationship between forced labor and fundamental rights.
Law is a set of conducts that is established and enforced by a sovereign authority to ensure and maintain orderly coexistence in the society. Law refers to a “command proceeding from the supreme political authority of a state and addressed to the persons who are subject to that authority”. Law helps the society, citizens and civilization to cohabit peacefully by providing them with a guideline about how to behave, how to act in social and business life, how to arbitrate the conflicts between multiples parties.
The Fundamental Rights guaranteed by Part III of the Constitution of Bangladesh, are not natural rights but such rights as will be enforceable by Courts, they are a part of the positive law of the Land. The Constitution bears many laws about labor. There is lots of Act regarding this. It has been said that what should be done or not, the punishments for breaking the law is also written their clearly. The principles declared in Part II are not judicially enforceable, but those enunciated in Part III aim to provide limitations on the executive as well as the legislative powers of the State and are, therefore, made enforceable in a court of law. The State would perhaps interfere with the individual freedom of its citizens in such a manner as to amount to a virtual negation of the guaranteed freedoms. The prohibition of forced labor goes under the fundamental rights where it has been strictly declared not to practice in any situation.
Definition of Forced Labor
Forced labor means the labor which will be done by someone forcefully. If any person does not want to work, no one can insist him/her to do the work. The person who will compel someone to labor against his/her wish, will be punished according to the law of Bangladesh Constitution.
Prohibition of Forced Labor in two Constitutions
In our constitution forced labor is mentioned in the Article 34 where it says that it is strictly prohibited and whoever do these will be punished. According to Bangladesh Constitution Article 34 says—
“(1) All forms of forced labor are prohibited and any contravention of this provision shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law.
(2) Nothing in this article shall apply to compulsory labor-
(a) By persons undergoing lawful punishment for a criminal offence; or
(b) Required by any law for public purposes.”
According to American Constitution 13 Amendment Section 1, it says—
“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime where of the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the united States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
Our Constitution does not expressly mention slavery as has been mentioned in the 13 Amendment to the United States Constitution, and though there is no longer the remotest likelihood of enforcing such institution, the prohibition against forced labor would extend to it if at all any attempt is made to introduce it.
Under The Bangladesh Penal Code
Section 374 of the Bangladesh Penal Code which lies down—
“ (1) Whoever unlawfully compels any person to labor against the will of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.
(2) Whoever compels a prisoner of war or a protected person to serve in the armed forces of Bangladesh shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year.”
Under The Bangladesh Labor Law
After the separation of the Indian sub-continent in 1947, almost all the laws during the pre-partition period were kept in force with some modifications and amendments, in the form of administrative rules, by the Pakistan Government. After the independence in 1971, the Bangladesh government retained the previous laws through the Bangladesh Laws Order (President’s Order No. 48). It also enacted additional laws in response to the changing circumstances and needs of the working class and the country. In 2006, the country adopted the revised Bangladesh Labor Law of 2006 or BLL where it has been said about the prohibition of forced labor.
Relationship between forced labor and fundamental rights
Fundamental rights mean the rights that are written in the state’s constitution. People get these rights for the sake of being citizens in a country. By the incorporation in the Constitution of such “fundamental rights” as personal liberty, equality before the law, freedom of speech and expression, freedom of assembly and association, freedom of movement and residence, freedom to hold and deal with property.
Under the fundamental rights there are freedom and prohibitions also. Prohibition of forced labor is one of them which go under the fundamental rights of Bangladesh. So it has a relationship with fundamental rights. In other words, if anyone wants to do work, only then he can do it. There is no matter of forcing. It is his right whether he would do or not. He has the right not to engage in labor or he can involve in labor. No one has interference in it. So from this point of view, forced labor goes with fundamental rights. If anyone gets involved in forced labor, he will break the fundamental rights of Bangladesh and he will be punished accordingly.
Relevant legal principles for regarding forced labor
In case of under the Employment of Labor (Standing orders) Act, 1946, every workman is bound , except on valid grounds, to work extra hours when required to do so provided that overtime working shall be regulated according to law. Section 47 of the Factories Act provides that where a worker in a non-seasonal factory works for more than nine hours a day or 48 hours a week, he/she will be entitled in respect of overtime work to a payment at the rate of twice his ordinary pay. A workman was to continue to work beyond his shift if his reliever did not turn up or delayed in doing so. It was not alleged that extra remuneration was not being paid. It was observed that to work overtime in addition to his normal daily routine hours under a contract does not raise the question of forced labor attracting the letter or spirit Article 16.
In Article 34 has subjected the prohibition against forced labor to the State’s requirement of compulsory service for public purposes. Where under a statute the state legislature has to levy taxes for the purposes of the State revenue, it would be justified in imposing obligation upon the citizens concerned to assist in the collection of those taxes as under Article 23(2) 0f the Indian Constitution the State was enabled to impose compulsory service for public purposes.
Child labor: No children (under 14 years of age) are allowed to work in any occupation or establishment. However, a child who has completed 12 years of age is permitted to do light work not harmful to his health, development and education. The Children Act (1974) and the Children Rules (1976) and The Suppression of Violence against Women and Children Act (2000) prohibits any kind of child labor whether it is forced or not in Bangladesh.
Domestic workers: Long time working hours, carrying heavy loads, insufficient food and medicine all these things go under forced labor. In our culture it is hugely practiced. In Bangladesh we keep domestic workers in our houses, for that we also pay. But in everywhere domestic workers are not well-treated. They work hours and hours which is unlawful. Sometimes they are tortured by the home owners. Any kind of this situation goes under forced labor.
Punishment of the Forced Labor
Punishment for labor law violations is not spelled out under the BLL. In some cases, the law is simply silent simply silent like in the case of forced labor prohibition. According to our constitution, forced labor is a punishable offence. As it’s a criminal offence, so there are lawful punishments provided for this type of offence. Under the Penal Code of Bangladesh the provisions of punishments are provided.
Unlawfully if anyone compels, any person to labor against his will, imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both. If anyone compels a prisoner of work or a protected person to serve in the armed forces of Bangladesh, imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend. If there is no punishment in our country, force labor will be practiced highly in our country. The provisions of punishments are imposed to protect the fundamental rights of people. Here, it is to be mentioned that, if no sum is expressed to which a fine may extend, the amount of fine to which the offender is liable is unlimited, but shall not be excessive
In interpreting the scope of the 13 Amendment to the US Constitution the Supreme Court said that the purpose of the Amendment was not merely to end slavery but to maintain a system of completely free and voluntary labor throughout the country. It is a fundamental right to a person to work according to his wish. No one can break it. If anyone does this, it will be against the law. To protect peoples’ right Constitution has provided punishment against forced labor. So if we all come forward and stand by this law, forced labor will be eliminated from our country.
1. “Legal Definition of Law”; www.lectlaw.com; Accessed: June 12, 2010
2. Amos, Sheldon; “The Science of Law”, 1885, “Legal Definition of Law”, www.duhaime.org, Accessed: June 12, 2010
3. Constitution of Bangladesh
4. American Constitution, Amendment 13, Section 1.
5. The Bangladesh Penal Code, Section 374
6. Atma Ram v. State of Bihar, AIR 1952 Pat 359; S. Pratap Singh v. State of Punjab, AIR 1964 SC 72
7. Bangladesh Labor Law, Hossain J. 2010 November, pg 8
8. See Article 20 of the Constitution of Bangladesh, also available at http://www.ilo.org/legacy/english/regions/asro/newdelhi/ipec/responses/bangladesh/national.htm
9. The Bangladesh Penal Code, Section 374
10. Ibid at p.157
11. The Bangladesh Labour Code. Revised edition 1997www.gci.org