Gujarat HC Addresses Plea Challenging Constitutional Validity of Factories Ordinance, 2020

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The Gujarat State Government passed the State Ordinance to Factories Act, 1948. The petitioners alleged that the said ordinance should render the Principal Act’ toothless’. The Gujarat High Court shall hear the plea on September 03, 2020.

Brief facts of the Case 

The Factories Act, 1948, was enacted to regulate the labour laws in India. The State Government have the power to amend the Principal Act by passing an ordinance without altering the basic structure. 

On 03.07.2020, the Government of Gujarat passed the State Ordinance to amend the definition of ‘factories’ as stated in Section 2(m) of the ActIt doubled the minimum requirement of workers for a manufacturing unit to be termed as a ‘factory’. Henceforth, factories with the aid of power should have 20 or more workers and factories without the aid of power shall have 40 or more workers. Moreover, the ordinance inserted Section 106B, whereby the State may make any or all offences compoundable in nature. The Principal Act provides for two years imprisonment and a fine of rupees one lakh to the occupier/ manager of the factory.

The petitioner, a trade union, has challenged the State Ordinance to be unconstitutional, arbitrary and illegal. It has alleged that the ordinance shall defeat the objective of the Principal Act rendering it ‘toothless’. 

Submissions before the Court

The petitioner submitted that the Act aims to improve working conditions, ensure the welfare of workers and further protect them against exploitation. The amendment of the minimum requirement of workers shall aid numerous factories in Gujarat to evade the applicability of the Principal Act. A majority of power aided manufacturing units in the State have more than ten but less than 20 workers. Hence, by virtue of the ordinance, many workers shall cease to seek protection under the Act. Moreover, it attacks the rights of the progressiveness of the Industrial State and its workmen’s humane conditions.

The petitioner contended that the insertion of Section 106B should provide an added advantage to the occupiers who already exert excessive bargaining power. The ordinance provides immunity against the omission of the occupier’s duty to ensure safety measures and hygienic working conditions. The violators shall be left at large on payment of certain compensatory amounts to the government rather than ensuring labour rights.

The Principal Act achieves the objective of socio-economic justice and hence, in consonance with the Preamble. The Act guarantees fundamental rights as under Part III and the Directive Principles as in Article 39 and 41 of the Constitution. However, the State Ordinance jeopardizes the aforementioned rights by amending the procedure and penalties under the Act. 

Prayer for relief

The present shall be heard by the court on 03.09.2020. The bench comprises of Justice R. M. Chaya and Justice I. J. Vora. The petitioner seeks directions to struck down the impugned ordinance as being ultra-vires the Constitution of India. The court may also quash and set aside all actions taken pursuant to the ordinance as void-ab-initio. 


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