This case comment talks about how an organization named PUDR, which works for
protection and welfare of the democratic rights of the people filed a PIL
against the State because they were negligent in providing the daily minimum
wages to the labourers and failed to provide a healthy working environment for
the poor, they were suffering but was not in any position to approach the court,
so this organization after analyzing and interviewing various workers filed the
petition in bona fide intention. Here there is the violation of Article 21, 23,
24 of the Indian constitution, The minimum wages act, Contract Labour
(Regulations and Abolition Act), 1970, The Equal Remuneration Act,1976.
- Facts of the case
PUDR is an organization which is working for the protection of citizen's
democratic rights. It is observed that the workers who were working on the
ASIAD-82 project were not given healthy environment and were not provided
with daily minimum wages. They have to work at the sites both on stadia and
the infrastructure like hotels, flyovers etc.
The workers were forced to complete the project as early as possible and was
known as "Begar" as they were recruited by the construction contractors
without having fixed working hours and they were not paid.
Because of this their children were lacking the basic necessities and were
forced to be malnourished and became the victims to the accidents.
PUDR, an organization which works for improving the working conditions of
the citizens and to provide their rights, employed three ombudsmen (social
scientists), who after analyzing could bring out the report on the
exploitation and living conditions of workmen working under the contractors
employed by Union of India.
PUDR, also visited major sites and after interviewing various employees
filed a Writ petition before the Supreme Court on November 16, 1981. By the
way of PIL, it requested to issue observance of the provisions of various
labour laws in relation to the workers employed in the construction work of
the ASIAD-82 projects. The scientists were to submit weekly reports to the
Hon'ble Supreme Court relating to the cases of violation of the laws.
- Whether the Writ petition can be maintainable against the private
individual under Article 32 of the Constitution of India?
- Whether Article 21 of the Constitution of India also include right to
live with human dignity and right to livelihood?
- Arguments from the Petitioner's side:
- The petitioner argued that the contractors engaged the workers through Jamadars who brought them from different parts of India and were not paid the
daily minimum wages. They were to be paid Rs 9.25 per day, but were only given
Rs 8.25 per day as Rupee one per day was deducted by the jamadars as their
commission. Hence, they violated the provisions of Minimum Wages Act.
- There was violation of The Equal Remuneration Act,1976 as women workers
were paid less and their wage was misappropriated by the contractors as they
get only Rs 7 per day for their hard work.
- Article 24 was violated as the sites engaged children below 14 years of
age to work in factories and mines which are hazardous for them.
- The provisions of Contract Labour (Regulations and Abolition Act), 1970 was
violated which resulted in the exploitation of the workers as they were not
provided with the facilities and they were deprived of their right to proper
living conditions and medical related facilities.
- Article 23 was also violated as the labourers were not given the daily wages
which they were entitled to, so it is the form of forced labour. If they are
getting less wages then the minimum wages, their work will be considered as a
forced labour or termed as Beggar.
- Arguments from the Respondent's side:
- The Respondent claimed that the Petitioner was in no position for locus standi
in which they filed the writ petition as there was no violation of their rights.
It was the labourers whose rights were infringed and they should have filed the
petition because there is no cause of action aroused for the petitioner i.e.
- The Respondent argued that the workers were actually directly employed
by the contractors and not the respondents, hence they are not liable for
the violation of their rights. The cause of action was against the
contractors and not the respondents, so the petition could not lay against
them. The writ petition under section 32 cannot lie against the respondents
for the alleged violations.
- The Employment of Children Act 1938 is concerned the case of the Union
of India, the Delhi Administration and the Delhi Development Authority was
that no complaint in regard to the violation of the provisions of that Act
was at any time received by them and they disputed that there was any
violation of these provisions by the contractors. It was also contended on
behalf of these Authorities that the Employment of Children Act 1938 was not
applicable in case of employment in the construction work of these projects,
since construction industry is not a process specified in the Schedule and
is therefore not within the provisions of sub 474 section (3) of section 3
of that Act.
It was held by the Hon'ble Court that the right of a poor worker to directly
approach the Supreme Court under Article 32of the Constitution of India for the
enforcement of rights created under various labour laws and particularly under
the provisions of Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970,
Interstate Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service)
Act, 1977, Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, Employment of Children Act, 1970 and
Minimum Wages Act, 1948 is correct. The court said that if the violations of
labour laws are to be punished only be meagre fines then it is not possible to
maintain the strictness and ensure observance of the laws as the people will
become reluctant because they have to pay very less in terms of crimes they have
committed. The laws would be mere tigers without any teeth or claws.
The Petitioner presents that the it is true that they were not in the position
to file the writ petition as they were designed for the welfare of the workers,
so it would only be the labourers who should file the petition because they are
whom the legal injury has been occurred and they should approach the court for
the redressal. But the traditional rule of standing was a result of inheritance
of the Anglo-Saxon system of Jurisprudence which is now broken and the doctrine
of locus standi is its new dimension.
As there are many socioeconomic conditions
prevailing in the country which is faced with poverty, illiteracy, ignorance,
disability, it deprives the poor to approach the court and fight for their
rights in order to get justice. Thus any member acting in a bona fide and out of
any extraneous motivation may move to the court for the redress of the legal
injury suffered by the persons who cannot fight for themselves because of their
conditions. The petitioner is an organization who works for the protection of
the rights of the workers. Thus it is clearly maintainable.
The petitioner says that although it is true that the workers were the employees
of the contractors, this cannot escape the obligation of the respondents to keep
a check on various labour laws and their enforcement. So far as the Contract
Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act 1970 is concerned, it is clear that under
section 20, if any amenity required to be provided under sections 16, 17, 18 or
19 for the benefit of the workmen employed in an establishment is not provided
by the contractor, the obligation to provide such amenity rests on the principal
employer and therefore if in the construction work of the Asiad projects, the
contractors do not carry out the obligations imposed upon them by any of these
sections, the Union of India, the Delhi Administration and the Delhi Development
Authority as principal employers would be liable and these obligations would be
enforceable against them. In section 17 & 18 of the Inter State Migrant
Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of service) the principal
employer is liable to pay the migrant workers their daily wages and if they fail
to do so it will be enforceable against them.
The mines employed children below the age of 14 years in a hazardous work which
is harmful for the children and it is also the duty of the respondents (The
Union of India, Delhi Developmental Authority and Delhi Administration) to make
sure that this obligation is being followed by the contractors.
The respondents presented that the petition was not maintainable under Article
32 of the Indian Constitution, unless some breach of fundamental right is being
present. The court held that the petition is valid in the court.
The petitioner presented that Article 23 which is clearly designed to protect
the individual and it prohibits traffic in human beings and other forms of
forced labour and Begar. It is not merely "beggar" which is prohibited by
Article 23 but also all other forms of forced labour as it is violative of human
dignity and contrary to basic human values, therefore, violates Article 21 also.
Political freedom had no meaning unless it was accompanied by social and
economic freedom and it was therefore necessary to carry forward the social and
economic revolution with a view to creating social economic conditions in which
everyone would be able to enjoy basic human rights and participate in the fruits
of freedom and liberty in an egalitarian social and economic framework.
The court held that Article 21 means right to life which also includes right to
live with basic human dignity. We may add that whenever any construction work is
being carried out either departmentally or through contractors, the government
or any other governmental authority including a public sector corporation which
is carrying out such work must take great care to see that the provisions of the
labour laws are being strictly observed.
The legal aid movement and public
interest litigation seek to bring justice to these forgotten specimens of
humanity who constitute the bulk of the citizens of India and who are really and
truly the "People of India" who gave to themselves this magnificent
Constitution. It is true that there are large arrears pending in the courts but,
that cannot be any reason for denying access to justice to the poor and weaker
sections of the community.
No State has a right to tell its citizens that
because a large number of cases of the rich and the well-to-do are pending in
our courts, we will not help the poor to come to the courts for seeking justice
until the staggering load of cases of people who can afford, is disposed of.
The Petition was allowed.
- Personal opinion:
"Since human rights and fundamental freedoms are indivisible, the full
realization of civil and political rights without the enjoyment of economic,
social, and cultural rights is impossible."
This case depicts that the rule of law does not mean that its protection will be
given to only the fortunate people who are few in number or only the interests
of such people will be protected who can approach the court, rather the poor too
have civil and political rights and the Rule of Law is applicable for them also.
The lowest strata also have the right that needs to be protected because they
are the people who constitute large amount of population which are still living
in poor conditions, poverty has sapped their moral fibre. These people do not
have adequate resources or knowledge which can tell them when to approach the
court or not.
We have to restructure the social and economic order so that they will be able
to realize their social, economic and cultural rights, they will be responsible.
The Court did the right thing in favoring the petitioners because they were
fighting for the rights of those workers which were denied access to basic
necessities and daily minimum wages. Public interest litigation is essentially a
collaborative effort who will ensure the observance of these constitutional
rights of the workers which have been infringed. The State in fact should
welcome these kind of petitions as it is giving an opportunity to right a wrong
and will provide equity and justice for all.
Now this is the right time when the courts must become the courts for equity and
justice to provide every citizen their rights.
Judges should make sure that very strict penalties are being given to those who
are violating the labour laws in order to improve the conditions of workers and
Hence it is correctly held by the court that The Union Of India, Delhi
Development Authority must not escape from their obligation to ensure the
observance of labour laws and whether they are being violated or not, if so,
they should take actions against the same.
Some of the fundamental rights can be enforced even against private individuals
and it is not that fundamental rights can only be enforced against the state.
Private individuals are held responsible if fundamental rights are violated
under the Constitution of India. It has been observed that how the courts in the
matters of the rights of the poor in the society can do complete justice, break
the chains of rules and regulations and by bending and molding them, it is used
for the benefit of the people and for public welfare i.e. free.
Here in this case the rights of the workers were at issue and it was a great
demand from the side of justice to respond at some point in the workers'
affairs. It was seen and observed that even after 30 years of independence till
these case workers were being exploited and their rights were violated at times
by their employers.
The case lays great emphasis on how the concept of PIL (Public Interest
Litigation, then newly introduced) can be used for the public good at large and
how compensation and relief can be obtained through law in exchange for the
atrocities they have suffered.
The main purpose and function of law is to create greater happiness at the
lowest possible cost, which means that justice should prevail in society through
the proper application of laws and statutes.
This case law provides important knowledge about various laws and their
interpretation under the Constitution of India. It provides an in-depth
knowledge of the judicial interpretation of the word 'life' under Article 21 of
the Constitution of India.
How the Courts by their powers can create and interpret for the benefit of the
general public to do full justice, words which, if not interpreted, would remain
ambiguous or be limited to a mere definite meaning.
- PUDR VS.UOI (LABOUR LAW).pdf
- PUDR VS.UOI (LABOUR LAW).pdf