Changes proposed to labour laws are unconstitutional -Arundhati Katju

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published Published on May 19, 2020   modified Modified on May 20, 2020

-The Indian Express

Rather than encouraging workers to return by securing wages and improving working conditions, the amendments introduced by the states are removing basic labour law protections.

In the wake of the migrant crisis, several states have amended existing labour laws, either suspending them altogether or increasing working hours. The Prime Minister’s address on May 12 also indicated legal changes in the offing, which will doubtless include amendments to labour laws. It is axiomatic that these amendments must be in consonance with the fundamental rights guaranteed to labour, as also the Directive Principles of State Policy which enjoin the state to further the interests of labour in its policies. Any legal changes will inevitably be challenged in court and must meet constitutional standards to survive such a challenge.

One aspect of the crisis is that the labour net-importing states have seen a labour shortage, driving up wages. This prompted some states to take steps to restrict migrant labour from returning home. Article 19(1)(d) of the Constitution protects the right to move freely throughout the territory of India. The Karnataka government’s decision to cancel trains for migrant labour, though later reversed, would likely have violated Article 19(1)(d).

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The Indian Express, 19 May, 2020,

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