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Factories (Karnataka Amendment) Bill, 2023: Analyzing The Amendments

On February 22nd this year, the government of Karnataka brought in some amendments to the prevailing Factories act of 1948[1]. These amendments liberalised the labour laws and permitted women to work for night shifts. The amendment being one notified by the state government makes the amended laws applicable within the boundaries of the State of Karnataka.

The state government has been given power in a wide array of matters relating to those mentioned under the factories act. Many provisions which are otherwise an important aspect or form a part of an essential rule for the functioning of factories can be done away with if the concerned state government so consents which is clearly indicative of the powers bestowed upon the state government. The amendments recently notified in the state of Karnataka, extend this power of state government to other arenas.

The author through this article aims to take +note of the amendments so made and their impact.

What triggered the Karnataka government to amend the act?

COVID-19 had a lasting impact on the world economy. Supply chains were interrupted and broken since China which is still a major manufacturing hub for a variety of products was the epicentre of the outbreak of the pandemic. Companies which relied upon China extensively for the manufacturing of their products had a setback since China was unable to undertake the production to its potential level in the following 2 to 3 years after the pandemic.

Companies were finding the alternative route to get their products manufactured when the fact that the population of India is about to surpass the population of the most populous country in the world, China- floated on all media platforms. This brought the attention of many companies towards the potential that might exist in this huge population.

Recently Foxconn which is the manufacturing partner of Apple, engaged in talks with the government of India about its plans to expand the manufacturing process across the pan world and reduce its reliance on one country solely that is China. This conversation was the spark that lightened the minds of the legislators and the government who further amended the labour laws for the state of Karnataka.

While presently India merely assembles the manufactured products, the recent talks that the manufacturing partner of apple engaged in, with India are an indication of an industry for manufacturing of Apple phones in India coming up in this southern state of India.

The state will now have flexible working hours, allow women to work night shifts, and increase the number of maximum hours on work from 9 hours to 12 hours among other amendments which will be explained in detail in the next section of this article. These amendments were carried out in the act so that foreign companies can carry out the production of their goods with the help of labour in India since strict labour laws would be a hurdle in the smooth process of manufacturing.

Furthermore, strict labour laws governing a country are one of the major reasons why many companies do not open their production units in certain countries. Therefore, liberalising the laws governing factory labour will act as an indirect invitation to foreign companies to set up their manufacturing units in India.

What is the Factories Act, 1948?

The Factories Act, of 1948 is a labour law in India which regulates the working of factories. It lists down the duties of an employer towards a workman in a factory such as maintaining the requisite safety standards, working towards the welfare of the labour, and special duties in case the factory engages in hazardous processes. The act also provides for the eligibility criteria, maximum working hours, number of paid leaves that is leave with wages, etc for the employment of children, adolescents and adults in the factory.

It further mentions the general penalties for offences, and the liability of the owner of the factory in certain circumstances among other penalties that can be levied in case an offence is committed.

Analysis and comparison of the key amendments in respect of the provisions of the prevailing act

The amendments recently notified in the state of Karnataka, extend this power of state government to certain other arenas than were already stated in the present act.

Factories act, of 1948 talks about the maximum number of hours that a worker can be allowed to work, in a week[2]. It mentions that adult workers may work for a maximum of 48 hours per week. Further, the act clearly states that 'no adult worker shall be allowed to work for more than 9 hours in a day'[3]. To relax this provision, an amendment was made in the year 1954 which empowered the Chief Inspector to approve for exceeding the specified limit of 48 hours of work for a workman, to facilitate the shifts.

However, the amendment made in the 2023 Karnataka bill, adds a subsection to this provision of law that allows the state government to increase the maximum limit daily working hours of any worker from 9 hours to 12 hours (only if the worker is willing to work for an extra 3 hours), with the maximum limit of weekly hours of work remaining the same that is 48.

Another provision of the act talks about the intervals for rest and mentions that a worker shall not be made to work continuously for more than 5 hours and without having a break of one hour[4]. A sub-section of this section[5] allows the state government or Chief inspector under the control of the state government to issue an order in writing with reasons so recorded to extend the period of continuous work for any workman from 5 hours to 6 hours.

Through the recent amendment to the act, another sub-section has been added to this provision. This empowers the state government to extend the maximum number of hours that a worker can work without an interval from 5 to 6 by a mere notification without having to record the reasons in writing. This has simply widened the scope of power of the state government.

Further, the present act mentions that inclusive of all the breaks that a worker takes, his working hours should not be 'spread over for more than 10 and a half hours' [6] however a proviso to this section has also been provided.

It enables Chief Inspector to increase the spread over to 12 hours[7] after recording his reasons in writing for such an increase. However, the new amendment in the state of Karnataka empowers the government to increase the spread over to twelve hours by notification in the official gazette.

The provision of extra wages for overtime work has been provided in the present act[8]. As discussed earlier the maximum working hours in the day may be increased from 9 hours to 12 hours. In lieu of this amendment, a further amendment had been made to the provision of extra wages. Presently the act mentions that a person be paid wages for overtime work if he works for more than 9 hours in a day or for more than 48 hours in a week[9]. In the amendment bill, the sentences, "if he works for more than 10 hours or for more than 48 hours in a week", and "if he works for more than 12 hours or for more than 48 hours in a week" have been added.

One of the most major amendments that can be seen in the bill is that section 66 of the present act has been done away with. It mentions some "further restrictions on the employment of women workers"[10] in a factory.

One clause of this section mentions that no laxity be granted to women workers in matters relating to maximum hours for work[11] while another clause of this section clearly says that no woman shall be allowed or required to work if the hours of such work are not between 6 A.M. And 7 P.M[12].

This whole section has been removed which means that now women workers are allowed to work after 7 P.M. that is to say that they are now allowed to do the night shifts.

In this regard Honourable high court of Kerela in the case of Treasa Josfine v. State of Kerela & Anr.[13] held that a woman has a right to work and cannot be refused to work for certain hours solely on the basis of her gender further declaring the related provision[14] of factories act as unconstitutional.

It furthermore held that it is the 'duty' of functionaries of the government and government itself, who were respondents in the present case, to take "appropriate steps" so that the woman so employed is able to undertake her duties. In the year 2019, Karnataka passed a notification which allowed women workers to work in factories for hours between 7 P.M. and 6 A.M. it permitted women to work night shifts irrespective of the restriction imposed on the women workers under the Factories Act.

After having analysed the amendments to the Factories Act in the State of Karnataka, we understand that it was an essential step for allowing companies from other countries to be able to plan on opening their manufacturing units in India. This is a win-win situation since the opening of production and manufacturing units of giant companies like Apple will provide massive employment to the population of India and the Government of India can't be expected to provide employment to all eligible citizens single-handed.

Therefore, with the increasing population in India, such steps must be undertaken by the governments of other states in India inviting Multinational Companies and Giants to operate from India with Indian Labour and managers. However, every coin has two sides and the other side of these amendments might be that these lead to the exploitation of Indian workforce which in all probability should be prevented.

  1. Factories act of 1948
  2. Section 51 of the Factories act, 1948
  3. Section 54 of the Factories act, 1948
  4. Section 55 of the Factories act, 1948
  5. Section 55(2) of the Factories act, 1948
  6. Section 56 of the Factories act, 1948
  7. Substituted the "spread over to 12 hours" by Act 94 of 1976, w.e.f 26-10-1976
  8. Section 59 of the Factories act, 1948
  9. Section 59(1) of the Factories act, 1948
  10. Section 66 of the Factories act, 1948
  11. Section 66(1)(a) of the Factories act, 1948
  12. Section 66(1)(b) of the Factories act, 1948
  13. Treasa Josfine V State of Kerala & Anr. [Wp(C). No. 25092 Of 2020]
  14. Supra 12
Written By: Shreya Jindal is a law student at Rajiv Gandhi national university of Law

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