The PIL filed in the SC on Thursday through lawyer Nirmal Kumar Ambastha,praying for an order to quash the various notification issued by Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh’s government under the Factories Act on the ground that they are violative of right to equality and life under the constitution
The Issue involved
Whether powers conferred by section 5 of the Factories Act, 1948 is available to the State Government for a purpose other than the purpose stated in the aforesaid section 5 itself?
Whether the poorest of poor labourers, who earn their livelihood by working for someone else, can be exclusively burdened to bear the detrimental effects of economic growth of the economically ruined country because of the Corona virus pandemic being faced by the entire world?
WHETHER the State’s action in exempting the industries from various Labour Laws related to the welfare of the workers for increasing the working hours to one and half times and deprivation of fundamental rights to approach Courts of law and other welfare provisions without following due process of law is violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India?
Facts and Contentions
Our forefathers enacted various legislations to protect the interest of poor workers, who work in various industrial establishmentsand make a contribution to the economic development of the nation.
One such legislation is The Factories Act, 1948 and section 5 of the act provides that power to exempt will be available to the State Government only in case of such “Public Emergency” and not in any other circumstance. However, various State Governments exercised the powers under aforesaid section 5 of the Factories Act, 1948 by equating the current Pandemic “COVID-19” situation as a “Public Emergency”.
And various other section provides for the working hours of the workers
States have granted exemptions to the industrial units from various provisions of the labour laws, such as section 36- B of the Industrial Disputes Act, section 5 of the Factories Act.
It was submitted that diluting labour laws will lead to the exploitation of labourers, almost many labourers have already lost their livelihood due to COVID-19 outbreak.
The petition stated that “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 by taking away their existing rights”
The changes will give industries more flexibility in hiring and firing employees, increase in daily and weekly working hours, deprivation of the right of workmen to approach courts of law, routine inspection of industrial units by the factory workers, determining their wages and reduce their liabilities in terms of providing employees benefits.
While the employers are asking attempts to avoid their liabilities, it is the labourers who need to be taken care of, so that they can live with dignity without begging for food and shelter.
The plea ended with the statement that “laws sought to be suspended by the respondent States were enacted after independence but before the enactment of the Constitution of India, which shows the importance given by our founding fathers to these legislations. The Constitution also enshrines various provisions under Part IV (Directive Principles of State Policy), which has been held to be a guiding factor for governance on numerous occasions”
Therefore it is prayed that the directions must be issued to quash the notification granting the exemption to the factories registered under the Factories Act, 1947 and restrain the states from abrogating the statutory provisions under various statutes enacted for the workmen in view of the pandemic.