Constitutional Background Of Labour Laws

  • The Constitution of India is the benchmark for any Act passed in our country. The Constitution of India is the largest written constitution of the world
  • Each and every act which was in force before the enactment of our constitution were either amended or abolished after its enforcement
  • Our constitution plays an important part in the changes and growth in labour laws in India
  • The Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy protected in Part III and Part IV mentions working class related benchmark laws

Part III (Article 12 to 35) of the Constitution covers the fundamental rights of its citizens which includes Equality before the law, Religion, Sex, caste, place of birth, the abolition of untouchability, freedom of speech and expression and prohibition of employment of children in factories.

  • Article 14 Equality before the law which is interpreted in labour laws as “Equal pay for equal work”. It does not mean that article 14 is absolute
  • There are a few exceptions in it regarding labour laws such as physical ability, unskilled and skilled labours shall receive payment according to their merit
  • In the case of Randhir Singh vs Union of India, the Supreme Court said that “Even though the principle of ‘Equal pay for equal work’ is not defined in the Constitution of India, it is a goal which is to be achieved through Article 14,16 and 39 (c) of the Constitution of India.

Article 19 (1) (C) Constitution guarantees citizens to form a union or association. The Trade Union Act, 1926 works through this Article of the Constitution. It allows workers to form trade unions. Trade Unions provide the power to raise voice against atrocities done to the workers. Unionization brings power to the laborers. Trade Unions discuss various labour-related problems with the employers, they conduct strikes, etc.

  • Article 23 Constitution prohibits forced labour. When the Britishers ruled over India, forced labour was prevalent all over India. They were made to work against their will and weren’t paid according to their work. The Government at that time were infamous for forced labour and the landlords were also involved in forced labour
  • In current times, forced or bonded labour is an offence which is punishable under the law. The Bonded Labour (Abolition) Act, 1976 prohibits all kinds of bonded labour and is declared illegal.

Article 24 Constitution prohibits all forms of child labour. Nobody can employ a child under the age of 14 to work. Child labour was a massive problem of our country in the earlier times and it still is happening but at a lower scale. The penalization of article 24 is simple. Relevancy of Part IV (Article 36 – 51) on Labour Laws Part IV of the Constitution of India, which is also known as the “Directive Principles of State Policy” aims to work toward the welfare of its citizens. DPSP cannot be enforced in the court of law, but it provides a guideline to the legislature for making labour laws in India.

  • Article 39 (a) “The State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing; That the citizens, men and women equally, have the right to an adequate means of livelihood. It means that every citizen of the country has the right to earn a livelihood without getting discriminated on the basis of their sex
  • Article 39 (d) Constitution says that “The State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing; that there is equal pay for equal work for both men and women. Wages will not be determined on the basis of sex rather it will be according to the amount of work done by the worker

Article 41 Constitution provides “Right to Work” which means that every citizen of the country has the right to work and the state with the best of its abilities will secure the right to work and education.

Article 42 Provides for the upliftment of the working conditions for workers. It talks about creating a suitable and Humane workplace. This article also talks about maternity relief, i.e leave provided to women when they are pregnant.

Article 43 Talks about the “living wage” for its citizens. Living wage not only includes the “bare necessities of life” but also the social and cultural upliftment of the person. It also includes education and insurances for a person. The State shall constantly try to create opportunities in the fields of Agriculture and Industries with special reference to cottage industries.


  • Constitution of India is the base for all laws in our country. The labour laws are also made according to the constitution and any violation of constitutional laws result in the abolition of that particular law
  • The Directive Principles of the State policy play a major role in the making of new labour laws in India. List of major Labour law Acts in India
  • The Minimum Wages Act, 1948
  • The Payment of Wages Act, 1936
  • The Trade Unions Act, 1926
  • The Industrial Disputes Act, 1947
  • The Factories Act, 1948 etc…

Shivam Jha

HR Ignite

(Industrial relation Advisor and professional)

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