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Lok Adhikar Sangh Vs. State of Gujarat and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectLabour and Industrial
CourtGujarat High Court
Decided On
Case NumberSpl. C.A. No. 6395 of 1983
Judge
Reported in(1986)ILLJ326Guj
ActsGujarat Unprotected Manual Workers (Regulation of Employment and Welfare) Act, 1979 - Sections 27
AppellantLok Adhikar Sangh
RespondentState of Gujarat and ors.
Excerpt:
- - at that time we were told on behalf of the assistant commissioner of labour that there are good number of unregistered contractors employing contract labour in surat and prosecutions have been taken up as a result of inspections. the vice-chancellor has been good enough to take up the onerous responsibility......the relief to be moulded in the case. for the present we make the following directions : (1) the state government, we expect, will make an in-depth study of the report submitted by the south gujarat university and also of the measures indicated therein so that even without any specific directions from the court the government could to the extent possible, use its own initiative in adopting 'counter insurgency measures'; (2) 'in order to maintain continuing effective management over a sustained period of time of the process of implementation of the labour laws' four posts of factory inspectors and staff requisite for the functioning of such inspectors should be appointed solely for the the purpose of enforcement of the labour laws in surat textile industry as pointed out in the report......
Judgment:

P.S. Poti, C.J.

1. This case illustrates a new phase in the promotion of social action litigation in this country. The petitioner before us is Lok Adhikar Sangh, a Society established for the purpose of protection of democratic rights and civil liberties of the citizens and particularly the down trodden classes. The petition concerns the the working and living conditions of textile labour in Surat. Surat is the hub of the textile industry in Gujarat. The labour force in this industry in Surat is evidently unorganised and there has been very little enforcement of labour laws. Direction for preparation of reports to highlight the conditions of such labour is the main request in the petition. But that by itself would be of no relevance for, unless the Court has to consider the grant of any substantive relief it would not concern itself with preparation of reports. The prayer made in the petition that the respondents, the State, the Commissioner of Labour and the Assistant Commissioner of Labour should be directed to enforce the labour laws is too plain and could easily be answered by a simple grant of the prayer, but that would be of no meaning because the Court does not issue a mandamus to the State generally to perform its obligations. The Court, if at all, must issue specific directions, that would be possible only on assessment of the nature of the violations and the determination of the modus to deal with them. It may be that the prayer is only that the authorities must be asked to enforce the law the Court may say that administration of the labour laws must be a matter of concern for the Government and the Court need not interfere or issue directions. But if it is pointed out to the Court that none of the labour laws generally operates in an area and that affects thousands of citizens resulting in serious infringement of their rights the situation may call for notice by the Court.

2. While directing notice on the petition, which notice was waived by the Government counsel Shri M. I. Hava we made certain interim directions. At that time we were told on behalf of the Assistant Commissioner of Labour that there are good number of unregistered contractors employing contract labour in Surat and prosecutions have been taken up as a result of inspections. We called for certain information on this matter by out interim order.

3. It appeared to us that a survey of working conditions of the labour in the textile mills in Surat would alone enable the Court to give more concrete shape to any relief that could ultimately be granted by it. We felt that the Sociology Department of the South Gujarat University may be equipped to make a survey and therefore we addressed the Vice-Chancellor to ascertain whether such work could be taken up. The Vice-Chancellor has been good enough to take up the onerous responsibility. Perhaps it is the first time that the University resources are utilised by a Court in this manner.

4. We have a very precise, useful and scientific report before us which reflects tremendous efforts put in by a dedicated team of teachers and students of the South Gujarat University, 59 students and 24 teachers. Their names are seen in the report and we place on record our appreciation of the dedicated honorary work done by this large team. We are sure that more than our appreciation the satisfaction of having participated in a significant social cause would give them reason for gratification. We also place on record our appreciation of the co-operation extended to this Court by the Vice-Chancellor of the South Gujarat University. We do hope that this will serve as a precedent for collaboration in the future in many matters particularly in social action litigations where similar co-operation from academic bodies would provide courts with data which would otherwise be unavailable to them.

5. When we had a discussion at the Bar about the report we felt that it is appropriate that any final decision in the case must await hearing also the case of employers in the textile industry. The petitioner is moving for impleading two of them as representatives of their class and after notice to them question of issuing rule to them would be considered. At the moment we issue rule to the respondents in the petition.

6. We think it is necessary at the moment to issue certain interim orders pending the return of the rule. These interim orders are passed on the basis of the data obtained from the University report and as suggested in the report. These orders would be necessary as emergent measures pending final disposal. Before we issue the interim directions we would appropriately state the background for issuing them in a few words. The workers employed in the 18,000 textile units in Surat are mainly casual hands. Despite the fact that Surat accounts for half of the total powerlooms functioning in the country and produces 3/5th of the total Art-Silk and also contributes 3/5th of the total national income from this industry it employs 1/3rd of the total labour force in the industry. That means that more work is turned out with less workmen employed compared to other parts of the country in similar textile industry. Naturally profitability of the Surat textile industry is higher than the All India average. On a study of the conditions of labour exploitation the report concludes that the increased productivity may be attributed to the primitive expropriation of pure and simple labour. Except for 8% of the workers who are permanent, the rest work as temporary (18%) and casual (74%). Workers continue to be temporary for long periods of time. 2% workers get less than 20 days in a month and 10% gets 20 to 24 days in a month, 65% of the workers work on piece rate wages of Rs. 26 to Rs. 1.20 per metre. 2% of the workers work in three shifts, 95% of the workers work in two shifts and only 3% work in one shift. The report points out that the survey discloses planned subversion of the labour laws as distinct from violation and points out the need for institutional 'counter-measures or counter-insurgency measures', to use the the language in the report. We do appreciate the suggestions made in the report of action by Court by way of remedial measures in a social action litigation. Those will certainly be of assistance to a Court in finally coming to a decision on the relief to be moulded in the case. For the present we make the following directions :

(1) The State Government, we expect, will make an in-depth study of the report submitted by the South Gujarat University and also of the measures indicated therein so that even without any specific directions from the Court the Government could to the extent possible, use its own initiative in adopting 'counter insurgency measures';

(2) 'In order to maintain continuing effective management over a sustained period of time of the process of implementation of the labour laws' four posts of factory inspectors and staff requisite for the functioning of such inspectors should be appointed solely for the the purpose of enforcement of the labour laws in Surat Textile Industry as pointed out in the report. Going by the figure available in regard to the year 1980 in the entire State of Gujarat for 26,130 industries there was an inspecting staff of only 76 persons of which 24 posts remained unfilled. Naturally the share of the present inspecting staff available in the State apportioned to the textile industry in Surat may not be able to tackle the enormous problem and hence the suggestion of an independent unit of four factory inspectors and other necessary staff. Shri M. I. Hava agreed to suggestion before us on behalf of the State Government. It is necessary that this should be a time bound programme and therefore such factory inspectors and requisite staff should be appointed within a period of two months from today and they should be exclusively assigned to the task of of ensuring compliance with the labour laws by the industry. The Labour Commissioner of the State should closely monitor their work every month, and direct the effective implementation of the direction of this Court and file a report to this Court one in two months until further order, after a period of three months from today, showing the progress made in this behalf.

(3) All textile workers covered by the report of the South Gujarat University should be include as unprotected workers under the Gujarat Unprotected Manual Workers (Regulation of Employment and Welfare) Act, 1979. The State Government has power to amend the Scheduled Employment List under S. 27 of the Act.

(4) After having included such workers under Gujarat Act 25 of 1979 the Government of Gujarat may lay before the High Court a scheme under the said Act which may be taken up for consideration by the Court. The inclusion may be made within a period of four months from today and the laying of the scheme within a period of four months thereafter;

(5) A programme of legal literacy employing the services of the South Gujarat University and the Industrial Training Institute (through its workers education programme) may be sponsored by the State Legal Aid Board intended for the benefit of the Surat Textile workers as early as possible.

(6) It would be more effective if there is a body to which complaints of violation of laws may be taken by the labour so that such body could assist them in seeking redress. The District Legal Aid Board, Surat is directed to take up this work and devise a machinery for handling these problems. A copy of the report will be sent to the District Legal Aid Board, Surat so that the Legal Aid Board may take appropriate measures to implement this part of the suggestion made in the report.

(7) The report refers to the deep emotional impact on the investigators especially on the more impressionable young students caused by the observations of the living conditions of the workers and hearing their narratives. Even so the report has confined itself to recording verifiable and quantifiable information. One of the matters which we believe must have made such emotional impact on the impressionable among the study team would have been the health problems faced by the workers about which reference is made in the report. Suggestion has been made for carrying out a more intensive survey of such health problems including inventory of their common diseases and their probable causes. Since suggestion of remedial measures would be possible only on a proper understanding of these problems, it would be highly advisable for the State Government to arrange for instituting a survey to determine the extent of the health problems of workers due to their working and living conditions and also as to what would be the role of their occupational routine on their health picture. We would expect the Government to look in to this matter and carry out a survey to be followed up later by appropriate remedial measures.

(8) We had already issued directions with regard to the enforcement of the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act and Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979. The Labour Commission must monitor the work so far done and present a report to this Court within three months as to what steps have been taken in this direction.

The report shows that the expenses incurred in connection with the preparation was raised from various sources. It is appropriate that such expenses are met from Government funds as it is in furtherance of a public cause to which the Government should be committed that the University incurred the expenses. In fact having given their very valuable honorary services to the cause neither the survey team nor the University is expected to incur any out of pocket expenses. The amount of Rs. 5,000 will be reimbursed by the State Government to the South Gujarat University within one week and the matter reported to this Court. Mr. M. I. Hava agrees that this will be done. It is recorded. We express our regret for the delay in making this direction.

Copies of this will be sent to (1) the State Government through Mr. M. I. Hava, (2) the Commissioner of Labour, Ahmedabad, (3) the Secretary, State Legal Aid Board, (4) the District Legal Aid Committee, Surat and (5) the Vice-Chancellor, South Gujarat University.

7. The case will be posted again after three months to monitor the progress made in the implementation of directions given hereby and to issue further directions, if any, then, as the circumstances may warrant.


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