Constitutional Rights and Directives – 1


During the 20th century a new branch of jurisprudence known as Industrial Jurisprudence has developed in our country. Industrial jurisprudence is a development of mainly post-independence period although its birth may be traced back to the industrial revolution. Before independence it existed in a rudimentary form in our country. The growth of industrial jurisprudence can significantly be noticed not only from increase in labour and industrial legislation but also from a large number of industrial law matters decided by Supreme Court and High Courts. It affects directly a considerable population of our country consisting of industrialists, workmen and their families. Those who are the affected indirectly constitute a still larger bulk of the country’s population.

 Principles of Labour Legislation 

Labors legislation in any country should be based on the principles of social justice, social equality, international uniformity and national economy. In the beginning, the worker was paid only for the days he actually worked. Until the passing of Workmen’s Compensation Act, 1923 no compensation was paid in case of an accident taking place in the course of employment. The Minimum Wages Act, The Factories Act, and the Payment of Wages Act are a few other legislations based on the principles of the social justice. This legislation fix the hours of work, make provision for payment of over-time, and leave rules, safety, health and welfare of labour in industry. Labour welfare in our country has a special significance for our Constitution provides for the promotion of welfare of people, for humane conditions of work and securing to all workers full employment of leisure and social and cultural opportunities. 

The proponents of the relevance of directive principles, however, argue that it is the moral responsibility of the government to take remedial actions to remove societal imbalances. The aim of the drafters of the Indian Constitution was that the directive principles of state policy should serve as a beacon to the government and ensure that goals are achieved through permissible means.   

Historical Background of Labour Policy & Labour Laws 

India’s Labour Policy is mainly based on Labour Laws. The labour laws of independent India derive their origin, inspiration and strength partly from the views expressed by important nationalist leaders during the days of national freedom struggle, partly from the debates of the Constituent Assembly and partly from the provisions of the Constitution and the International Conventions and Recommendations. The relevance of the dignity of human labour and the need for protecting and safeguarding the interest of labour as human beings has been enshrined in Chapter-III (Articles 16, 19, 23 & 24) and Chapter IV (Articles 39, 41, 42, 43, 43A & 54) of the Constitution of India keeping in line with Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy. The Labour Laws were also influenced by important human rights and the conventions and standards that have emerged from the United Nations. These include right to work of one’s choice, right against discrimination, prohibition of child labour, just and humane conditions of work, social security, protection of wages, redress of grievances, right to organize and form trade unions, collective bargaining and participation in management. Labour legislations have also been shaped and influenced by the recommendations of the various National Committees and Commissions such as First National Commission on Labour (1969) under the Chairmanship of Justice Gajendragadkar, National Commission on Rural Labour (1991), Second National Commission on Labour ( 2002) under the Chairmanship of Shri Ravindra Varma etc. and judicial pronouncements

on labour related matters specifically pertaining to minimum wages, bonded labour, child labour, contract labour etc. 

 Constitutional Provision Regarding Labour Law 

Under the Constitution of India, Labour is a subject in the concurrent list where both the Central and State Governments are competent to enact legislations. As a result, a large number of labour laws have been enacted catering to different aspects of labour namely, occupational health, safety, employment, training of apprentices, fixation, review and revision of minimum wages, mode of payment of wages, payment of compensation to workmen who suffer injuries as a result of accidents or causing death or disablement, bonded labour, contract labour, women labour and child labour, resolution and adjudication of industrial disputes, provision of social security such as provident fund, employees’ state insurance, gratuity, provision for payment of bonus, regulating the working conditions of certain specific categories of workmen such as plantation labour, beedi workers etc. This is how we have a large number of labour legislations, which can be categorized as follows: 

Labour laws enacted by the Central Government, where the Central Government has the sole responsibility for enforcement 

  1. The Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948 
  2. The Employees’ Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 
  3. The Dock Workers (Safety, Health and Welfare) Act, 1986 
  4. The Mines Act, 1952 
  5. The Iron Ore Mines, Manganese Ore Mines and Chrome Ore Mines  Labour Welfare        (Cess) Act, 1976 
  6. The Iron Ore Mines, Manganese Ore Mines and Chrome Ore Mines Labor Welfare Fund Act, 1976 
  7. The Mica Mines Labour Welfare Fund Act, 1946 
  8. The Beedi Workers Welfare Cess Act, 1976 
  9. The Limestone and Dolomite Mines Labour Welfare Fund Act, 1972 
  10. The Cine Workers Welfare (Cess) Act, 1981 
  11. The Beedi Workers Welfare Fund Act, 1976 
  12. The Cine Workers Welfare Fund Act, 1981 
  13. The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986. 
  14. The Building and Other Constructions Workers’ (Regulation of Employment and     Conditions of Service) Act, 1996. 
  15. The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970. 
  16. The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976. 
  17. The Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. 
  18. The Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946. 
  19. The Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979. 
  20. The Labour Laws (Exemption from Furnishing Returns and Maintaining Registers by Certain Establishments) Act, 1988 
  21. The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 
  22. The Minimum Wages Act, 1948 
  23. The Payment of Bonus Act, 1965 
  24. The Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972 
  25. The Payment of Wages Act, 1936 
  26. The Cine Workers and Cinema Theatre Workers (Regulation of Employment) Act, 1981 
  27. The Building and Other Construction Workers Cess Act, 1996 
  28. The Apprentices Act, 1961 
  29. The Employers’ Liability Act, 1938 
  30. The Factories Act, 1948 
  31. The Motor Transport Workers Act, 1961 
  32. The Personal Injuries (Compensation Insurance) Act, 1963 
  33. The Personal Injuries (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1962 
  34. The Plantation Labour Act, 1951 
  35. The Sales Promotion Employees (Conditions of Service) Act, 1976 
  36. The Trade Unions Act, 1926 
  37. The Weekly Holidays Act, 1942 
  38. The Working Journalists and Other Newspapers Employees (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1955 
  39. The Workmen’s Compensation Act, 1923 
  40. The Employment Exchange (Compulsory Notification of Vacancies) 
  41. Act, 1959 
  42. The Children (Pledging of Labour) Act 1938 
  43. The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 
  44. The Beedi and Cigar Workers (Conditions of Employment) Act, 1966

There are also Labour laws enacted and enforced by the various State Governments which apply to respective States 

 Labour Rights under the Indian constitution  

The Constitution of India has conferred innumerable rights on the protection of labour. Let’s see in brief what are all the rights conferred and what is the mechanism used, with the support of case laws. 

The Articles 21, 23, 24, 38, 39, 39-A, 41, 42, 43, 43-A and 47 of the Constitution, are calculated to give an idea of the conditions under which labour can be had for work and also of the responsibility of the Government, both Central and State, towards the labour to secure for them social order and living wages, keeping with the economic and political conditions of the country. 

The idea of ‘equal protection before the law’ embodied in Article 14 of our Constitution serves as the philosophical foundation for equal treatment of similarly situated workers by the employer.

This principle finds resonance in the idea of ‘equal pay for equal work’ enumerated in Article 39(d) which is further enforced through the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976. This statutory intervention also holds importance from the viewpoint of gender-justice since it was a clear command against discrimination between men and women who performed a similar quantum of work. 

In the Pre-Constitutional era, the recommendation of the Royal Commission on Labour (1929) for granting recognition to unions was sought to be implemented by the Trade Unions (Amendment) Act, 1947 which was never brought into force. Subsequently, the Trade Unions Bill introduced in Parliament in 1950 proposed a mechanism for recognition, but the bill lapsed. Another failed attempt was made in the form of the Trade Unions and Industrial Disputes (Amendment) Bill, 1988 which proposed the creation of industry-level bargaining councils whose membership would be proportionate to the relative strength of various trade unions.  

Article 24 of the Constitution of India is also enforceable against private citizens and lays down a prohibition against the employment of children below the age of fourteen years in any factory or mine or any other hazardous employment. This is also in consonance with Articles 39(e) and (f) in Part IV of the Constitution which emphasizes the need to protect the health and strength of workers, and also to protect children against exploitation. The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 specifically prohibits the employment of children in certain industries deemed to be hazardous and provides the scope for extending such prohibition to other sectors.  

The understanding of Article 23 was expanded by the decision in People’s Union for Democratic Rights and others v. Union of Indiawhich was also followed in Sanjit Roy v. State of Rajasthan. In that case, it was held that when a person provides labour or service to another for remuneration which is less than the prescribed minimum wages, the labour so provided clearly falls within the ambit of the words ‘forced labour’ under Article 23. The rationale adopted was that when someone works for less than the minimum wages, the presumption is that he or she is working under some compulsion. Hence it was held that such a person would be entitled to approach the higher judiciary under writ jurisdiction (Article 226 or Article 32) for the enforcement of fundamental rights which include the payment of minimum wages.  

………. Continued