Labour law plays an essential part in the employment relationship between the employer and the employee. It sets ground rules for employment, wages, and remunerations, working conditions, health, safety, welfare, trade unions, industrial relations, social security, insurance benefits and other provisions related to different occupations/professions. In the Indian Constitution (1950), labour rights are protected and guided under several articles including Articles 14, 15, 16, 19(1)(c), 23, 24, 38, 39, 39-A, 41, 42, 43, 43-A, 32, 226 and so on. Article 14 states equality before the law, article 15 prevents the state from discriminating amongst citizens, article 16 emphasizes the equality of opportunity for employment/appointment under the state. Article 19(1)(c) gives the right to the citizens to form associations or unions while imposing reasonable restrictions. Article 23 prohibits human trafficking and forced labour. Article 24 prohibits the employment of children in factories. Children under 14 years of age are prohibited from working in a factory, mine or any other hazardous employment. Articles 38-39 and 41-43 fall under the Directive Principles of the State Policy (Part 4) that cannot be enforced but are certain policies that are supposed to be followed by the State.
In the case, “Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewerage Board v. A Rajappa AIR 1978“, the term ‘industry’ was defined by setting up a ‘Triple Test Rule’. The appellant Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewerage Board had levied a fine upon its employees for some sort of misconduct. The employees i.e., the respondent reached the labour court against this action under Section 33C(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 alleging that the fine was not reasonable and was against the principle of natural justice. However, the objection raised by the employees was overruled by the labour court, then by the Karnataka High court and later on the Supreme Court of India dismissed the appeal. Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board was considered an industry as per the section provided.
In Hussainbhai Calicut v. Alath Factory Thozhilali Union AIR 1978, the prime issue was the definition of an employee. In the current scenario, employment was denied to 29 workers because they were appointed on a contractual basis and were not the factory’s workers. The Apex court upheld the verdicts pronounced by the lower courts stating that the employer-employee relationship is established in the present case. Management supplied the raw materials, pieces of equipment, premises to the workers and the final product belonged to the management. In short, the whole work was done under the eyes of the management and solely for its purpose. The employer had full control over the workers and the mere presence of intermediaries cannot rule out the employer-employee relationship.
In the case, Randhir Singh vs Union of India (1982), the Supreme Court constitutionalized the Right to equal pay for equal work withholding articles 14, 16 and 39(c) of the Indian Constitution. The verdict was pronounced following section 25 in the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Central Rules, 1971 (CLRA Rules) read together with Article 14 and 39(d) of the Constitution. This landmark judgment proved to be a boon for workers and prevented them from getting exploited based on irrational classification.
In the case, Daily Rated Casual Labour vs. Union of India, the right to equal pay was brought into question again. Sheer differentiation was done between the daily-wage and permanent workers in terms of the salary and benefits provided to them by the Posts and Telegraph Department. They were not put on equal footing for the same nature of work. This was violative of Article 14, Article 16 of the Constitution of India and Article 7 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Supreme Court of India ruled in favor of the Daily Rated Casual Labor and was promised the minimum pay. The Indian Constitution promises the right to equal opportunity to every citizen of India. The verdict of this case successfully upheld and honored the promises and brought the written law into a practical approach.
D.K. Yadav vs. J.M.A. Industries (1993) threw light on the principle of natural justice read under Article 14 of the Constitution. The appellant was a worker in the respondent company. He was arbitrarily terminated from his service because he was willfully absent for eight continuous days without informing the company. The company relied on clause 13(2)(iv) of the Certified Standing Order, which stated that on completion of eight calendar days’ absence from duty, an employee shall be deemed to have abandoned the services and lost his lien on his appointment. However, the appellant said that even though he regularly reported for duty, he was not allowed to work and was not informed of the reason. The Supreme Court in its verdict ordered the appellant’s reinstatement with 50 percent back wages to be paid in three months. It also observed that the exercising of rights given under the procedure for depriving a person of his livelihood must serve with the principles of natural justice (Article 14). Therefore, the deprivation of livelihood must be right, just, fair and reasonable and not arbitrary, illegal or oppressive. Under Article 21, the employee must be given a fair chance to be heard and explain his situation.
Labour law is very different from other branches of the law. Over time, the field of Labour law has shown immense progress. With several amendments and their essences, labour laws have left a mark on the working of the industries. The evolution in labour laws is widely a result of political and socio-economic changes. Industries as well as the employees working in them feel assured about their stance and position because of the law regulation and safeguarding them, forming a trustful and healthy relationship between the employer and the employee. The Indian Judiciary has done a laudatory job in bringing the written laws into compliance. The relationship between the employee and the employer is of give and take. It is a win-win situation if both are benefited and satisfied. In any way, if either one is them is discontented, it damages the relationship and consequently, the tasks are interrupted.
Author(s) Name: Khushi Yadav (FIMT, GGSIPU)