In Uttar Pradesh, government suspended almost all labour laws by promulgating
ordinance The Uttar Pradesh Temporary Exemption from Certain Labour Laws
Section 3 of the Ordinance lists down labour laws, sections of labour laws and
other rules which will remain in force in this three-year period.
So, the labour laws which continue to be enforceable in the state are as
- The Building and Other Construction Workers Act, 1996;
- The Workmen Compensation Act, 1923;
- The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976;
- Section 5 of the Payment of Wages Act.
Madhya Pradesh government has promulgated Madhya Pradesh Labour Laws (Amendment)
It provides for suspension of Industrial Disputes Act, and
amended the following state labour laws:
- Madhya Pradesh Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1961
- Madhya Pradesh Shram Kalyan Nidhi Adhiniyam, 1982.
Similarly, various states are opting to suspend labour laws or drastically
reduce protection of labour rights to induce employers to continue their
business operations and to attract investors to their states.
This article delves into constitutionality of suspension of labour laws,
particularly in the light of situation in Uttar Pradesh.
Can labour laws be suspended by a state?
The major issue is whether states have power to suspend Central labour laws. It
is to be noted that states have suspended labour laws, and have not attempted to
repeal or override by making any new state law, thereby complexing the situation
in legal realms.
To answer this query, firstly a question of constitutional law must be
addressed: Can a State suspend Central laws by ordinance?
Firstly, it has been well settled in Rai Sahib Ram Jawaya Kapur v. State of
, AIR 1955 SC 549, that by virtue of Article 162, law making power of
legislature is co-extensive with that of executive and executive has power to
enact a law in respect of subjects of List II and List III. So if state
legislature has power to suspend Central laws, so does have the executive. By
way of Entry no. 22 and Entry no. 24 of List III of Seventh Schedule, it has
been provided that labour laws are a concurrent subject.
Article 254 deals with repugnancy. It provides that in case of conflict between
laws made by Centre and State on a subject of concurrent list, Central law will
prevail. Repugnancy can be in the form of direct conflict, occupied field, or
intended occupation. However, State law will prevail over Central law if the
former is reserved and assented to by President of India. The ordinances
promulgated have not received assent of President yet. However, it is case of
suspension of laws for a temporary period, and not to invalidate labour laws
formulated by the Centre.
In State of Rajasthan and Ors. v. Union of India and Ors
., AIR 1977 SC
1361, it was observed, The declaration of a financial emergency under Article
360(1) carries with it the power to issue directions for reducing the salaries
of persons serving in connection with the affairs of the Union, including the
Judges of the Supreme Court and the High Court. Clause (2) of Article 360 makes
Clause (2) of Article 352 applicable to proclamations of financial emergencies
with the result, that anything done or any action taken during the period of two
months after the issuance of the proclamation, remains inviolable for that
That in fact, is the common thread which runs through Articles 352, 356 and 360.
The suspension of the right to move any Court for the enforcement of fundamental
rights, the lifting of the prohibition of Article 19 as against the making of
laws and taking executive action, the assumption of powers under Clauses (a),
(b) and (c) of Article 356 have full effect while the proclamations are in
operation during the minimum period of two months.
Action taken during those two months, if irrevocable, remains un-remedied.
Therefore, it can be inferred in the present situation, had financial emergency
been imposed, even then suspension of labour laws for such long time as
envisaged by different state governments could not be exercised. Also, since the
suspension is not irrevocable, remedy lies with those affected by suspension of
the beneficial legislations.
In D. S. Patel and Co. v. Gujarat State Textile Corporation Ltd.
0 GLR 33, it was clearly indicated that Suspension does not tantamount to
, and thus:
when the sub-clause speaks about suspension of a right, it only means
suspension of its execution or enforcement
There is a need to look into intent of law-making body to determine whether by
promulgating The Uttar Pradesh Temporary Exemption from Certain Labour Laws
Ordinance, 2020 to interpret whether the term exempted from the operation is
used in its common parlance, i.e. to deprive the employees of the rights granted
by labour laws which are exempted from operation.
In this regard, it is humbly submitted that the courts should try to make
beneficial construction of the ordinance since it has been well established in
The Workmen of Firestone Tyre and Rubber Co. of India (Pvt.) Ltd. v. The
Management and Ors
It is well settled that in construing the provisions of a welfare legislation,
courts should adopt, what is described as a beneficent rule of construction. If
two constructions are reasonably possible to be placed on the section, it
follows that the construction which furthers the policy and object of the Act
and is more beneficial to the employees, has to be preferred.
The Ordinance has been sent for approval of President. However, this ordinance
violates Article 213. The provision mandates President's instructions for
promulgating any such ordinance by Governor which if made by state legislature,
would require President's assent for becoming enforceable.
Circumstances when labour laws can be suspended
In Jay Engineering Works Ltd. and Ors. v. State of West Bengal and Ors
AIR 1968 Cal 407., when executive suspended state law which imposed duties on
various authorities for the maintenance of law and order, thereby declining
protection to managerial staff from ‘gherao'
, the suspension was held to
It was pointed out by B. C. Mitra, J. that the direct result of the suspension
would be violation of fundamental rights of the petitioners, who were encircled
by the respondents, and breach of statutory duties imposed on public servants.
Section 86 of Factories Act, 1958 empowers state government to exempt public
institutions and other institutions connected with public institution which work
in the field of education, training research, or information from any or all
provisions of the act, except those related to work and holidays. This ordinance
seeks to make exemption regardless the unit is attached to public institution
working in the field of the aforesaid categories or not.
No circumstance or conditions are laid in statutes or the Constitution regarding
temporary suspension, in absence of imposition of National Emergency,
President's rule or financial emergency.
Based on the research undertaken by me, I have come to the conclusion that
suspension of labour laws is not legally and constitutionally well-founded.
Indian courts should be very cautious while adjudicating upon this issue since
it implies suspension of laws in absence of emergency. There is a very high risk
of misuse of such power, if warranted by judiciary and governments may try to
suspend different laws on pretext of various reasonable and unreasonable grounds
in future. This will vitiate rule of law and there will be higher possibility of
tyranny and destruction of rights of people by State machinery.
Further, I believe that such suspension of law is violative of rule of law and
equality, since quantum of rights given in different states to workers varies
according to place of their work in the same State. This difference is not based
on any intelligible differentia, which could be number of Covid-19 cases in a
place or economic status of employer.
Rather, such step will promote movement of labour out of Uttar Pradesh and other
states where the laws are suspended to their detriment. This is really
undesirable, keeping in mind the surge in Covid-19 cases in India.
In the end, the author finds disabling of remedial statutes an unwelcome move.
Written By: Tanvi Aggarwal