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Labour Law

Constitutional Limitations on Labour Laws

Although labour policy seeks to create high minimum standards of employment, the choice of the legislature in seeking to achieve the objective are not unqualified. Minimum standard legislation is subject to various limitations. To begin with, in order to guarantee the fundamental rights, the Indian Constitution imposes certain limitations on the legislations on the legislature and the executive. To the extent it is inconsistent with or derogatory to a fundamental right, the legislation is void. Fundamental rights are enforceable by the courts under Article 32 and 226.

The fundamental rights are enumerated in Part-III of the Constitution. The whole object of Part-III is to provide protection for the freedom and rights mentioned therein against arbitrary actions by the State. Of particular relevance is Article 14, which provides that “the State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or equal protection of the laws within the territory of India”. In addition to this, Article 16 guarantees equality of opportunity in matters public employment. Further, Article 19 guarantees “the right to freedom of speech and expression, to assemble peaceably and without arms, to form associations or unions to practice any profession, and to carry on any occupation, trade or business. ” These constitutional guarantees are of great practical significance in the area of labour law, including minimum standard legislation. Equal protection constitutes a limitation on the legislative power to select or decide which business or industry must achieve minimum standards. The right to carry on trade profession or business limits the burden which the legislation may place on business in the interests of workers. The freedom of speech, assembly, association and unionisation protect workers in their efforts to achieve their objectives through self in organising, picketing or striking.

Article 21, provide protection of life and personal liberty. It provides that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law. Article 23, prohibits traffic in human beings and forced labour. It says (i) Traffic in human beings and beggar and other similar forms of forced labour are prohibited and any contravention of this provision shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law. Life, in Article 21, has been interpreted by the Supreme Court as including Livelihood and the Court has held in several cases that any employment below minimum wage levels is impermissible as it accounts to slavery as understood in Article23. Holding a person in bondage is a Constitutional crime. Article 24, places a ban on employment below the age of 14 in any factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment.