PUDR v Union of India (1982 SC) – Law School Notes

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 PUDR is an organization formed for the purpose of protecting democratic rights. It commissioned three social scientists for the purpose of investigating and inquiring into the conditions under which the workmen engaged in the various Asiad Projects were working.
 Based on these investigations, the petitioner addressed a letter to Justice Bhagwati complaining of violation of various labour laws by the Respondents and seeking interference by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court treated the letter as a writ petition on the judicial side and issued notice to the Union of India, Delhi Administration and the Delhi Development Authority.
 Inter alia, the allegations in the petition were: (i) The provisions of Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 were violated as the women workers were being paid less and the balance of the amount of the wage was being misappropriated by the Jamadars: (ii) There was violation of Article 24 of the Constitution and of the provisions of the Employment of Children Acts, 1938 and 1970 in as much as children below the age of 14 years were employed by the contractors in the construction work of the various projects; (iii) There was violation of the provisions of the Contract Labour (Regulations and Abolition) Act, 1970 which resulted in deprivation and exploitation of the workers and denial of their right to proper living condition and medical and other facilities under the Act.
 The SC spoke in favour of the attempt to safeguard the constitutional and legal rights of the workers through this petition. It held that Judges in the country must view violations of labour laws with strictness and whenever any violations of labour laws are established before them, they should punish the errant employers by imposing adequate punishment.
 The labour laws are enacted for improving the conditions of workers and the employers cannot be allowed to buy off immunity against violations of labour laws by paying a paltry fine which they would not mind paying, because by violating the labour laws they would be making profit which would far exceed the amount of the fine.
 Many of the fundamental rights enacted in Part III operate as limitations on the power of the State and impose negative obligations on the State not to encroach on individual liberty and they are enforceable only against the State. But there are certain fundamental rights conferred by the Constitution which are enforceable against the whole world and they are to be found inter alia in Articles 17, 23 and 24.
 Where a person provides labour or services to another for remuneration which is less than the minimum wage, the labour or service provided by him clearly falls within the scope and ambit of the words “forced labour“ under Article 23. Such a person would be entitled to come to the court for enforcement of his fundamental right under Article 23 by asking the court to direct payment of the minimum wage to him so that the labour or service provided by him ceases to be ‘forced labour’ and the breach of Article 23 is remedied. Ordinarily no one would willingly supply labour or service to another for less than the minimum wage, when he knows that under the law he is entitled to get minimum wage for the labour or service provided by him. Therefore when a person provides labour or service to another against receipt of remuneration which is less than the minimum wage, he is acting under the force of some compulsion which drives him to work though he is paid less than what he is entitled under law to receive.
 It is the duty of the State to create laws that protect the fundamental rights of the workers and enforce them. To the extent that such laws impose restrictions on the freedom to contract, such restrictions are reasonable and therefore justified under the Constitution.
 These in particular include child labourers, contract workers and migrant workers.

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