5 Important Judgments of Labour Laws in India

A landmark judgment clarifying the concept of Lockout and Lay-off-

  1. Management of Kairbetta Estate, Kotagiri Po v. Rajamanickam, 1960 AIR 893, 1960 SCR (3) 371

In this case, the manager of the appellant was violently assaulted by the workers which resulted in serious injury along with multiple fractures. The staff members of the company were also threatened by the workers. The staff members of the lower division denied going on work in the lower division as a threat to their lives. The management closed the company’s lower division for a period of time.

The respondents in the present case filed a complaint in the Labour Court under Section 33A of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 as they contended that the work in the division was stopped without any prior notice. The section 33A deals with the adjudication of the disputes whether the conditions of the service changed during the pendency of the proceedings. The respondents also claimed compensation for the layoff as under Section 25 of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. The Labour Court allowed the claim of the respondents.

Aggrieved from the order of the Labour Court the appellant in present case approached the apex court. The apex court while deciding the issue made the distinction between the layoff and the lockout and held that the present case was “lockout” not “lay-off” as there was a work stoppage initiated by the management of the company due to the labour dispute. In the case of layoff, the management has to provide compensation if the work is stopped due to different reasons such as shortage of coal or anything similar. The apex court held that in this case, the workmen had become aggressive and went out of control of the employer and not adhering to his request, so the employer can make a closure and such closure shall be considered as a lockout not layoff, hence no compensation shall be provided to the workman.

A landmark judgement by Supreme Court on Settlement under Industrial Disputes Act-

  • Bata Shoe Co. Ltd. v. D.N Ganguly, 1961 AIR 1158, 1961 SCR (3) 308

In the present case, a dispute arose between the Bata Company i.e. appellant and the workers i.e. respondent. The dispute went in course of the conciliation where the parties in disputes amicably to a settlement. However, after the settlement, the workers of company went on strike. The company claimed the strike as illegal and irrelevant in light of the settlement done by the respondent. The company held the inquiry and dismissed the workers who had gone on strike.With regard to the dispute of termination of workers, the conciliation proceeding was again preferred reaching an agreement signed by both parties of the dispute. However, in the whole process of conciliation, no conciliation officer was present.

Therefore, the question in issue before the apex court was whether the settlement was done by the company and the workers were as per as provided under Section 12 and Section 18 of the Industrial Dispute Act, 1947. The Supreme Court held the settlement at which the parties had arrived was according to the provisions of the sections provided under the Industrial Dispute Act and the settlement was binding over the parties as they can’t deny the terms at which they had arrived upon at the time of settlement. However, the court also held that the second settlement done by the parties after the first one was non-binding as it was contrary to the provided provisions of the Industrial legislation.   

Another landmark judgment by apex court for Equal Pay to Equal Work

  • Randhir Singh v. Union of India, 1982 AIR 879

The petitioner in this case was a driver working with the Delhi Police Force. He claimed that his salary was not as per standard with the other drivers working in the Delhi Administration. He further stated that the drivers of the Delhi Administration perform a similar function as the drivers of the other department.

The apex court while dealing with the matter said that the Constitution of India doesn’t include the provisions for equal pay, and so it can’t be kept under the ambit of the fundamental right. However, Article 39(d) of the Constitution of India provides the provision for equal pay for equal work for both man and woman, and it is included under the Directive Principles of the State Policy.

Further, the apex court interpreted that Article 14 and Article 16 of the Constitution of India in the light of the Directive Principles of the State Policy as provided under Article 39(d) and construed the principle of equal pay for equal work. In accordance with such interpretation, the apex court ordered the Delhi Police to fix the salary of the driver in accordance with the other drivers working under the Delhi Administration.

An important judgment on Bonded Labour:

  • Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India, 1984 AIR 802

The petitioner in the present case is an association who wrote a letter to Justice P.N Bhagwati with regard to the poor condition of the large number of reinforced workers who were working in the stone quarries in some part of Faridabad and Haryana. The association i.e. petitioner described the brutal and insufferable conditions of the labourers and stated the different provisions of the Constitution of India that was not being actualized with respect to these workers. The petitioner in the said letter referred to the name of the stone quarries and the point of interest of the workers to be implored under a writ as the different social welfare legislation provides for the same.

The letter of the petitioner was treated as a writ petition. Further, the Supreme Court constituted a commission for the inquiry into the truth of the matter as stated by the petitioner. The commission inquired into the matter and found the statement of the petitioner was true as bonded labour existed there, and there were severe violations of the Labour Laws.

The apex court on the basis of inquiry made by the commission held that the petition is maintainable and stated that it was the duty of the state government to make rectification as it failed to ensure proper compliance of the labour laws. Hon’ble Court further added that the workmen were being held under bondage and in pathetic condition, which not only violates the Constitutional provision of Article 21 but also the human right laws. Such act of the stone quarries companies had curtailed the fundamental rights of the petitioner as Article 21 provides that the “right to live with dignity” is a part of the fundamental rights and the onus is on the State for proper compliance of such rights if it is curtailed.

The most important judgment and steps taken by Supreme Court on Child Labour:

  • M.C. Mehta vs State Of Tamil Nadu And Others, AIR 1997 SC 699, (1996) 6 SCC 756

An activist lawyer Mr. M.C. Mehta, filed a petition in the court claiming that the fundamental rights of children were being grossly violated in contravention of Article 24 of the Constitution of India, which provides that no child below the age of fourteen years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment. The Court noted that child labour is a “big problem” in India, and examined the history of child labour laws in India, therefore, the main issue before the court was to provide effective alternative means to curb the employment of children in hazardous labour. The court also dealt with issues related to the education, growth and development of children.

The court observed that the rights of children were protected under Articles 24, 39(e) and 9(f), 41, and 47 of the Indian Constitution. These articles mainly deals with the provision of growth and development of a child by banning child labour, providing free and compulsory education to children, providing a dignified standard of living to the children, etc. Further, the court also observed that the reason behind the child labour was the financial conditions of the family.

Therefore, the court ordered formation of a Child Labour Rehabilitation cum Welfare Fund. Any person employing a child into hazardous labour would have to pay a sum of Rs. 20,000, which shall be deposited in the fund. The amount deposited shall be used for the growth and development of the child.


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