National Commission on Labour (1967)||
Labour—A Concurrent Subject:
22.37 We now discuss the position emerging out of the inclusion of 'labour' in the 'Concurrent List' in our Constitution and the consequences thereof both in the framing of labour policy and in its administration. In the process, we propose to discover the basis, if any, for a common labour code. In the years since Independence, various legislative measures have been enacted both by the Centre and the States. In cases where the beneficiaries are distinct and the benefits are new, no difficulties can arise. The State legislation merely supplements the Central Acts. However, if for the same class of beneficiaries, neighbouring States provide different benefits, avoidable difficulties can arise.
22.38 The current dichotomy between laying down policy and its administration has not been without difficulties. Equally serious has been the States' desire to have new legislation. On occasions, there have been debates over the responsibilities of administering specific pieces of legislation as between the Centre and the States, as also over defining the 'appropriate Government' for certain industries under the I.D. Act. For a long time since Independence, questions of this type were sorted out in the Labour Ministers' Conference or in the tripartite. There have been instances when, on the advice of the Central Government, a State had stayed its proposed action in the field of labour legislation. In some other States, in the light of criticism or advice emerging out of the ILC/ SLC, the State law is made more acceptable in the All-India forum. Similar amity has prevailed in the matter of administration. This situation is likely to be affected by political developments leading to the formation of governments at the Centre and in the States by different and even opposing political parties. Recently, when the Centre proposed to accept responsibility in a particular instance in the matter of industrial relations in certain industries, the States showed resistance. Though this fact was a reiteration of a stand taken by the States some fifteen years ago, in the current situation, such differences acquire a new meaning.
22.39 If this is going to be the pattern for the future, the tripartite will have its limitations in promoting uniformity as explained in the previous section. What then is the way out? This was the point of our special inquiry during the course of seeking evidence. We sought help from the parties appearing before us on
the specific question whether they favoured a common labour code. In seeking a response on this issue, we started from the premise that since labour legislation had emerged over a period, the concepts/definitions and standards, as indeed the basic philosophy in some of the pieces of legislation, would have necessarily differed. Difficulties in administration consequent on it were to be considered as natural. In the new context, there is a possibility that such differences will be greater, bringing in their own administrative implications. In recognition of these difficulties, the response to the question on 'Common Labour Code' was affirmative wherever it was sought, though some discordant strains were also heard. Some even raised the basic question of labour being in the 'Concurrent List'. While the overwhelming argument was in favour of status quo, a very small section preferred to see it transferred to the 'Union List' and a still smaller section to the 'State List'. In this matter, we are of the opinion that labour should continue to be on the 'Concurrent List'. This brings us back to the question of uniformity in definitions and standards.