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Labour laws changes in states challenged in SC

The decisions of Gujrat, M.P. and U.P. govt. about changing the labour laws in their states have been challenged in SC by filing PIL.


The petitioner from Jharkhand, Pankaj Kumar Yadav have moved the Supreme Court seeking quashing of the notifications by the States through which the provisions of the Factories Act of 1948 have come to be relaxed on the premise of "facilitating economic activities in various parts of the Country".


By exercising the power conferred on the States under Section 5 of the Factories Act, the States have relaxed the provisions of the Act to the detriment of the poor workman, the petition claims. It is said in PIL that while Section 5 of the Act provides for exemption in case of a public emergency, the scope of such an emergency is also provided for in the provision itself. The State governments have however, equated the ongoing health crisis with a public emergency to exercise this power.


Statutes under labour laws are welfare legislations, benevolent in nature, and enacted to provide protection to the "oppressed class" from the "oppressor class", the plea avers. With the said relaxation of the labor laws however, the States would be depriving this "oppressed class" from welfare measures at a time when they are the worst affected category amid this pandemic.


The plea goes on to add, "even under such a situation, a Welfare State cannot be expected to force its least fortunate and most oppressed citizens into further miseries on the pretext of facilitating economic activities/ development by taking away their existing rights to their detriment and for the advantage of more fortunate citizens."


The notifications enabling the relaxation in the labour laws would, inter alia, result in an increase in weekly and daily working hours for the workmen while denying them the right to approach the Courts, it is noted.The imposition of a nation-wide lockdown has left a large population of workers jobless and in dire straits. Taking away the welfare provisions enacted for their benefit would only further worsen their miseries, the petitioner has argued.


The petitioners have prayed for the notifications in question to be declared ultra vires the provisions of the Factories Act as well as Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India and consequently quashed.Also seeking an ad-interim ex parte stay on executive orders, the petitioner has prayed for a direction from the Court to restrain the States from "abrogating the statutory provisions under various statutes enacted for welfare of the workmen".