GUJARAT MAZDOOR SABHA AND ANOTHER Vs. STATE OF GUJARAT
LAWS(SC)-2020-10-2
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
Decided on October 01,2020

Gujarat Mazdoor Sabha And Another Appellant
VERSUS
STATE OF GUJARAT Respondents







JUDGEMENT

DHANANJAYA Y.CHANDRACHUD, J. - (1.)Index JUDGEMENT_2_LAWS(SC)10_2020.html
Invoking its powers under Section 5 of the Factories Act, 1948 ("Factories Act"), the State of Gujarat has exempted factories from observing some of the obligations which employers have to fulfil towards the workmen employed by them. The government justifies the action on the ground that industrial employers are faced with financial stringency in the economic downturn resulting from the outbreak of COVID -19. A trade union with a state-wide presence and another with a national presence are before this court in a petition under Article 32 of the Constitution to challenge the validity of the state's notifications dated 17 April 2020 and 20 July 2020.

A The Notifications

(2.)A nationwide lockdown was declared by the Central Government from 24 March 2020 to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Economic activity came to a grinding halt. The lockdown was extended on several occasions, among them for the second time on 14 April 2020. On 17 April 2020, the Labour and Employment Department of the State of Gujarat issued a notification under Section 5 of the Factories Act to exempt all factories registered under the Act "from various provisions relating to weekly hours, daily hours, intervals for rest etc. for adult workers" under Sections 51, 54, 55 and 56. The stated aim of the notification was to provide "certain relaxations for industrial and commercial activities" from 20 April 2020 till 19 July 2020. The notification in its relevant part is extracted below:
"...NOW, THEREFORE, in exercise of the powers conferred by Section 5 of the Factories Act, 1948 (LXIII of 1948), the Government of Gujarat hereby directs that all the factories registered under the Factories Act, 1948 shall be exempted from various provisions relating to weekly hours, daily hours, intervals for rest etc. of adult workers under section 51, section 54, section 55 and section 56 with the following conditions from 20th April till 19th July 2020,-

(1) No adult worker shall be allowed or required to work in a factory for more than twelve hours in any day and Seventy Two hours in any week.

(2) The Periods of work of adult workers in a factory each day shall be so fixed that no period shall exceed six hours and that no worker shall work for more than six hours before he has had an interval of rest of at least half an hour.

(3) No Female workers shall be allowed or required to work in a factory between 7:00 PM to 6:00 AM.

(4) Wages shall be in a proportion of the existing wages (e.g. If wages for eight hours are 80 Rupees, then proportionate wages for twelve hours will be 120 Rupees)."

On its lapse by the efflux of time, the State government issued another notification on 20 July 2020[2]. Similar in content, the new notification extended the exemption granted to factories from 20 July 2020 till 19 October 2020.

[2] Both the notifications dated 17 April 2020 and 20 July 2020 were issued by the Labour and Employment Department of the State of Gujarat

B Grounds of challenge

(3.)The first Petitioner is a trade union registered under the Trade Unions Act, 1926 and represents about ten thousand workers employed in factories and industrial establishments in the State of Gujarat. The second Petitioner is a federation of registered trade unions and represents a hundred thousand workmen in factories and establishments across India.
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