The Supreme Court on Thursday quashed a notification of the Gujarat government which allowed all factories in the state to extend work shifts to up to 12 hours from the earlier eight hours.
The notification, issued in April amid the COVID-19 lockdown, also allowed them to slash overtime payment to such workers by half even as it increased the working hour.
The court while setting aside the notification also directed the state to pay overtime due to workers at the original rate.
“Burden cannot be put on workers during the pandemic. It is not the appropriate response. Right to employment and fair wage is part of Right to Life,” a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court said.
The Supreme Court bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and KM Joseph delivered the verdict through video conferencing.
The court said the pandemic cannot be called an internal emergency threatening the security of the nation to do away with requirements of the law.
Who challenged the notification?
The Gujarat Mazdoor Sabha had moved the Supreme Court against the notification challenging the Gujarat Labour and Employment Department’s decision exempting factories from provisions of the Factories Act-1948. This is the act that governs the payment of overtime wages, working hours among others.
Gujarat is among the six states in the country that allowed longer shifts for workers post the pandemic after several businesses expressed inability to pay wages in full or part.
The states which allowed this included Gujarat, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan.
The state on its part argued that it was done to ensure that companies can operate with few workers and still achieve production.
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