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Suspension of Labour Laws in India

Suspension of Labour Laws in India
- Rudrakshi M Mendhe, Nagpur University


In the wake of the worldwide pandemic and therefore the nation-wide lockdown, an important constraint has been placed on individuals also because the economy. to attenuate the impact of the pandemic on the overall public also as business establishments and ensure minimum disruption within the supply chain, many amendments, advisories and announcements are introduced which might ideally subsist during the containment period, but could have long-term implications. Understanding the ramifications of those developments is important for the graceful operation of enterprises. One such amendment was the suspension of 35 out of the 38 labour laws for a period of three years by the State of Uttar Pradesh which approved the Uttar Pradesh Temporary Exemption from Certain Labour Laws Ordinance,2020. This move was followed by other states also like Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Odisha, among others, though to a smaller extent.

Such suspension has been sought to offer more flexibility to businesses and employers so as to assist: curb the consequences of the Covid–19 mandated lockdown. Labour laws provide Social Security measures for workers and while these measures may help boost the economy, they need also raised concerns regarding protection of the rights of the Indian labour force.

The State of Uttar Pradesh has promulgated an ordinance called the ‘Uttar Pradesh Temporary Exemption from Certain Labour Laws Ordinance, 2020’ and exempted from compliance a majority of the labour laws for a period of three years. Other States have issued notifications to grant certain exemptions under the economic Disputes Act, 1947, the Factories Act, 1948 and also extended working hours for a period of three months.


While the reforms are well-intended and aimed towards the promotion of investment and industries, the unintended consequences of such a move which may be reasonably foreseen are grave. The governments while defending the move have claimed that the workers will still be protected, however, this move reminds us of a Machiavelli quote “Never let an honest crisis attend waste.”

Labour laws are often broadly sorted into four categories supported the objectives that they regulate: conditions of labour, wages, Social Security and industrial relations. The sudden suspension of labour laws would go away the labour pool at the mercy of employers on various fronts. Establishments are required to be compliant by providing minimum wages and basic safety standards under some legislation. If an institution employs quite a particular number of workers, it might require prior approval for closure. There are other statutory requirements like notice, retrenchment compensation and dues to be paid like gratuity. There would be variety of employers who would cash in of things and obtain obviate the workers without the effort of complying with the formalities. Further, to form matters worse, the suspension itself means trade unions cannot raise a dispute under the economic Disputes Act, 1947, thereby leaving the hapless workers without a grievance redressal mechanism.


The freedom of citizens to make associations and unions which is enshrined under Article 19(1)(c) has been curbed by the aforesaid action. It is pertinent to notice that association pre-supposes organization and includes the proper to make trade unions within its purview as held in Kulkarni v. State of Bombay. When all labour laws are suspended, including the Trade Unions Act, 1926, this fundamental right is additionally affected. 


In Sanjit Roy v. State of Rajasthan, it’s been held that the payment of wages less than the wage to an individual employed on famine relief work violates Article 23. Whenever any labour or service is taken by the State from a person, who is suffering from drought and scarcity conditions, the State cannot pay him less wage than the wage on the grounds that it\'s given to them to assist meet the famine situations. The State cannot cash in of their helplessness. Parallels are often drawn from this case within the current situation also. The suspension of the Minimum Wages Act would cause an exploitative situation by the private also as public sector employers. this is able to lead the workers to a situation of forced labour that the Constitution specifically seeks to avoid.

Ironically, even the grievance redressal mechanism for them, as provided within the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, is also not available due to the suspension of the laws despite the Supreme Court of India recognizing the proper of access to justice as a fundamental right in the case of Anita Kushwaha v. Pushap Sadan.


The objective to extend investment and employment by relaxing the labour laws is optimistic of the govt. India had already been experiencing an economic slowdown which was essentially a drag of demand within the economy. the relief of labour laws may be a reform towards the rise of supply and would intensify the demand problem thanks to the unavailability of income among an outsized class of individuals, i.e., the labour force.

The Central Government agrees that major reforms within the field of labour laws are required thanks to the presence of multifarious legislation handling different aspects of labour law. The Central Government sought to consolidate the prevailing laws into labour codes, which might be said to be a step within the right direction to ease compliance with the laws. the entire suspension of the laws to draw in investment and reduce the compliance burden is patently illegal from a Constitutional perspective.

Even things of a worldwide pandemic thanks to COVID-19 doesn\'t justify the deliberate neglect of the labour force. it\'s particularly in these times that the State must take steps so as to guard their interests. Paradoxically, the response of other countries like the united kingdom, Canada, etc. has been positive to support the workers and therefore the employers within the time of crisis. This suspension could lead on to a wanton “hire and fire” policy by employers.


Part IV of the Indian Constitution deals with the aspect of Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP), which are non-justiciable in nature. They are ideals which must be kept in mind while the State seeks to formulate policies or enact laws. the idea for several pieces of labour welfare legislation, including Social Security laws is found within the DPSPs.

Article 38 seeks to market the welfare of the people by securing social, economic and political justice and minimizing inequalities in income, status and opportunities. Article 39 seeks to secure to the citizens, inter alia the proper to adequate means of livelihood for all citizens, equitable distribution of fabric resources of the community for the commonweal and prevention of the concentration of wealth and means of production. Article 41 states that in cases of unemployment and disablement, the state shall secure to its citizens the proper to figure. As per Article 43, the states are required to secure a wage, an honest standard of living and social and cultural opportunities for all workers. Article 51 bestows a requirement to foster respect for international treaties and obligations.

Through the suspension of labour laws, the welfare of the workers isn\'t promoted, rather they\'re bereft of the means to secure social and economic justice. this is able to indeed increase the inequalities within the income of employees. Moreover, the means of livelihood of the workers are often disrupted in accordance with the whims and fancies of the employer with no legal recourse available to them. within the case of Daily Rated Casual Labour v. Union of India, it had been held that “job security” is an important ingredient of the proper to figure and must be read within the light of the socio-economic philosophy of the proper. By suspending labour laws, there would even be an absence of security of employment and wage, along with an honest standard of living.

Moreover, the aforesaid suspension would even be against the international obligations of India drawn by the ratification of varied international labour conventions. Therefore, the moment suspension and dilution would cause a violation of the DPSPs also, that need to be protected by the State.


1)Ashima Obhan & Bambi Bhalla, ‘Suspension of Labour Laws Amidst Covid-19’ (Obhan & Associates 18 May, 2020) <> accessed on 28 June 2020.
2)AIR 1954 SC 73.
3)AIR 1983 SC 328.
4)(2016) 8 SCC 509.
5)1988 SCR (1) 598.
6)Dr. V. G. Goswami, Labour & Industrial laws, Central Law Agency, 11th edition.
7)Dr. J. N. Pandey, Constitutional Law of India, Central Law Agency, 54thedition.