Mar 9, 2022

Did you ever wonder about House Elves’ Right against Exploitation?


Most people would sympathise with the plight of house elves in Harry Potter. They have been portrayed as a race that is subject to exploitation and subjugated by the entire wizarding community. Each house elf is magically bound to serve its wizarding family, unless the members of that family free him or her. In particular, Dobby’s treatment by the Malfoys showed the worst version of the wizarding community’s attitude towards house elves. Though a magical creature, Dobby is forced to work for the Malfoys without payment and subjected to routine ill-treatment.


If house elves like Dobby faced this situation in India today, they would be protected from exploitation under Article 23 of the Constitution of India, 1950, which prohibits begar and other similar forms of forced labour which violate human dignity and basic human values. 


Irrespective of whether payment is made, labour supplied by a person is forced labour if it is not supplied willingly but as a result of force or compulsion. So, even if a person has contracted with another person to perform a paid service, they cannot be forced even by law to continue the service unwillingly.

The Supreme Court has held that when a person provides labour or service for payment which is less than the minimum wage, this is also forced labour. The person has the right to approach the court for enforcement of their fundamental right under Article 23, by asking the court to order payment of the minimum wage.

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