The Karnataka Government admitted to the High Court of Karnataka that it was difficult to justify its order relaxing labour laws in the State on the basis of Section 5 of the Factories Act, as the lockdown situation cannot be termed as a "public emergency" as specified under the provision.
"Although it is difficult to locate the present situation within contingencies of section 5 of the act, nevertheless the extraordinary situation warranted such drastic measures in the interest of both the workers and employers", the Government said in its written submission.
The Government added that grave crisis caused by the pandemic and the lockdown necessitated the relaxations of labour laws.
"A semantic interpretation of section 5, clearly demonstrates that only in grave emergencies threatening the security of India either by external aggression or internal disturbance this extraordinary provision could be invoked. However, an unbearable humanitarian crisis triggered by COVID-19 has come to be bigger than the challenge of pandemic, the respective government had to take certain special initiatives in this catch phrase which are key to our economy to get back on its feets".
A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice E S Indiresh was hearing a petition challenging the May 22 notification of the State Government to increase working hours of workmen from nine to 10 hours per day and to 60 hours from 48 hours per week in the state.
When the bench pointed out that the Karnataka Government has admitted in its submissions that Section 5 was not attracted, the government sought to place reliance of Section 65(2) of the Factories Act.
However, the bench pointed out that the notification was not referring to this provision.
The bench ultimately adjourned the hearing till June 12, in view of the non-availability of Additional Advocate General. The bench however cautioned that the notification will be stayed, if a fresh decision is not taken by Friday.
The court is hearing a petition filed by social and RTI Rights activist Maruthi H, which states that notification issued on May 22 is liable to be quashed as it is illegal, arbitrary and in violation of the Constitutional and statutory safeguards provided to workers. The notification subjects the workers to "forced labour", the plea stated.
Advocate Basawa Kunale and advocate Hemanth Rao are appearing for the petitioners
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