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Illegal And Unconstitutional, Kerala HC Calls For A Ban On Nokkukooli: T K Sundaresan Vs District Police Chief

Smriti Dubey ,
  22 December 2021       Share Bookmark

Court :
High Court of Kerala
Brief :

Citation :
WP(C) NO. 17866 of 2021(G)

20 December 2021

Justice Devan Ramachandran

Petitioner- T.K.Sundaresan
Respondent- District Police Chief


The KeralaHigh Court has banned the practice of taking ‘Nokkukooli’ and has termed it unconstitutional and illegal.


Kerala Headload Worker's Act- this Act regulates the employment of headload workers in the State of Kerala. The main objective of this Act is to make provisions for settlement of dispute of workers in regards to their wages, employment and non-employment.


  • The petitioner in this writ petition was seeking police protection as he was being threatened by the headload workers. The trade unions were not providing the petitioner with the registered headload workers required by him for his construction work due to a dispute about ‘Nokkukooli’.
  • Nokkukooli, also known as ‘Gawking wages’ is a term that refers to extortion by organized labour unions in Kerala. Under this, wages are paid to trade union activists in exchange for permitting investors and builders to unload their materials using machines or their own labour.


Whether the practice of Nokkukooliis unconstitutional?


  • The Kerala High Court pronounced the practice of demanding ‘Nokkukooli’, also known as,‘gawking charges’ as unconstitutional and illegal.
  • The Court called this practice “an unintended by-product of a well-intended legislation”while referring to the Kerala Headload Worker's Act.
  • The Court while diving into the history of the Act and the emergence of the practice of Nokkukooli, emphasised that it was implemented for the welfare of the workers and for settlements of disputes. The main purpose of the Kerala Headload Workers (Regulation of Employment & Welfare) Schemewas observed to be constitution of the welfare board and in turn institutionalisation of the contractual relations between employers and headload workers.
  • “However, even with all these provisions in place, allegations and complaints of trade unionism continued, particularly with the advent of mechanised modes of loading and unloading. This was the beginning of the concept of 'nokkukooli' over the years which later became a way of life."said the Court
  • The Court also proposed for modern provisions under the Act against making people carry large loads on their heads or bodies on daily basis which is bad for their muscular-skeletal and cervical spinal issues. The workers should have technological and mechanical assistance to relive their bodily trauma. The Court suggested that the Act should be modernised and also that it should be renamed as Loading and Unloading Workers Act.
  • TheCourt issued some directions as follows-
  1. The demand for nokkukooli in any form, by any person or trade union or registered worker is illegal and unconstitutional; and should be banned without reservation.
  2. If any complaints are made on the demand of nokkukooli against any person, it is the duty of police to act as per the circular of the State Police Chief and register an FIR against that person under section 383 of IPC for the offence of extortion along with section 503 and 149 along others if required.
  3. The Court called upon the Government to take their suggestions and amend the Act in a time bound manner.
  4. The welfare board and the Government were asked to devise new methods to modernise the Act.


The Kerala High Court has rightly held the demand of gawking charges unconstitutional. This practice is very common in the State of Kerala and very little was done to change the same by the Government and the authorities and so the judiciary had to intervene.

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