Indian labour law refers to laws regulating labour in India. Traditionally, Indian governments at federal and state level have sought to ensure a high degree of protection for workers but in practice form of government and because labour is a subject in the concurrent list of the Indian Constitution.

Indian labour law is closely connected to the Indian independence movement, and the campaigns of passive resistance leading up to independence. While India was under colonial rule by the British Raj, labour rights, trade unions, and freedom of association were all suppressed.

Workers who sought better conditions and trade unions that campaigned through strike action were frequently and violently suppressed. After independence was won in 1947, the Constitution of India of 1950 embedded a series of fundamental labour rights in the constitution, particularly the right to join and take action in a trade union, the principle of equality at work, and the aspiration of creating a living wage with decent working conditions.

In the Constitution of India from 1950, articles 14-16, 19(1) (c), 23-24, 38, and 41-43A directly concern labour rights.

  • Article 14 states that everyone should be equal before the law.
  • Article 15 specifically says the state should not discriminate against citizens.
  • Article 16 extends a right of "equality of opportunity" for employment or appointment under the state.
  • Article 19(1) (c) gives everyone a specific right "to form associations or unions".
  • Article 23 prohibits all trafficking and forced labour.
  • Article 24 prohibits child labour under 14 years old in a factory, mine or "any other hazardous employment".
  • Articles 38-39, and 41-43A, however, like all rights listed in Part IV of the Constitution are not enforceable by courts, rather than creating an aspiration "duty of the State to apply these principles in making laws".

The original justification for leaving such principles unenforceable by the courts was that democratically accountable institutions ought to be left with discretion, given the demands they could create on the state for funding from general taxation, although such views have since become controversial.

  • Article 38(1) says that in general the state should "strive to promote the welfare of the people" with a "social order in which justice, social, economic and political, shall inform all the institutions of national life.
  • Article 38(2) it goes on to say the state should "minimize the inequalities in income" and based on all other statuses.
  • Article 41 creates a "right to work", which the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005 attempts to put into practice.
  • Article 42 requires the state to "make provision for securing just and human conditions of work and for maternity relief".
  • Article 43 says workers should have the right to a living wage and "conditions of work ensuring a decent standard of life".
  • Article 43A, inserted by the Forty-second Amendment of the Constitution of India in 1976, creates a constitutional right to codetermination by requiring the state to legislate to "secure the participation of workers in the management of undertakings".

Indian labour law makes a distinction between people who work in "organized" sectors and people working in "unorganized sectors". The laws list the different industrial sectors to which various labour rights apply. People who do not fall within these sectors, the ordinary law of contract apply. India’s labour laws underwent a major update in the Industrial Disputes Act of 1947. Since then, an additional 45 national laws expand or intersect with the 1948 act, and another 200 state laws control the relationships between the worker and the company.

These laws mandate all aspects of employer-employee interaction, such as companies must keep 6 attendance logs, 10 different accounts for overtime wages, and file 5 types of annual returns. The scope of labour laws extend from regulating the height of urinals in workers washrooms to how often a work space must be lime-washed Inspectors can examine working space anytime and declare fines for violation of any labour laws and regulations.

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