National Commission on Labour (1967)||
30.8 The administrative agencies for implementing the policies adopted by Governments, the laws enacted by the Parliament/State Legislatures, and decisions taken by tripartite bodies at the Centre/States have been built up by (i) the Central Government, (ii) State Governments, (iii) Local Bodies and (iv) Statutory Corporation/ Boards. The authority to set up an agency will depend upon the statute to be administered or agreement to be enforced and the decision taken by Governments and parties to the agreement as to how it should be administered. Tradition also has played its part in reaching decisions. Administrative convenience has been stated to be the main consideration behind the decisions so far. The fact remains, however, that no uniform basis is discernible in these decisions. For instance, though the Central Government lays down standards and exercises coordinating functions in the matter of employment and training, the Employment Exchanges (Compulsory Notification of Vacancies) Act, 1959 and the Apprentices Act, 1961, are administered by the State Governments. The Dock Workers (Regulation of Employment) Act, 1948 is administered by a statutory board. The Centre is responsible for the administration of the Mines Act, 1952, and the Indian Dock Labourers Act, 1934, but other enactments having the same objective viz., the Factories Act, 1948, the Plantations Labour Act, 1951, and the Motor Transport Workers Act, 1961, have been entrusted to the State Governments for administration. There is yet a third variation: the enactment for regulating conditions of work in shops and commercial establishments which is a State legislation, is administered in some States through local bodies. Legislation on labour-management relations has been, by and large, the Centre's responsibility, but implementation is with the State Governments except in regard to industries for which the Central Government is designated as the 'appropriate Government'. The Indian Trade Unions Act, 1926 and to a great extent the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946, are administered by the State Governments.
30.9 Statutory Corporation administers the Employees' State Insurance Act, 1948, but workmen's compensation cases or cases of maternity benefit not covered by the Corporation are. the responsibility of the State Governments. The Employees' Provident Fund Act, 1952 and the Coal Mines Provident Fund Scheme, 1948 have statutory agencies for implementation. The legislation on welfare is administered generally by organisations statutorily created by the Central or State Governments, but administrative departments share this responsibility in some cases. Some aspects of labour welfare are a direct charge on the Central/State resources and the respective Departments of Labour make arrangements for using the appropriations made under this head from year to year. Funds for industrial housing and supervision on the appropriate use of these funds are again provided by the administrative Department.
30.10 Generally, the ownership of the unit, whether public or private, makes no difference to the agency, Central/State, to be entrusted with implementation. Goods or services which the unit provides and the nature of right/duty cast on the party, become a criterion for attracting the jurisdiction of the relevant agency. In the establishments owned by the Central Government, the factory inspectorate of the State Government enforces the provision of the Factories Act, 1948. While for the departmentally run industrial undertakings of the Central Government, the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, is administered by the Central Government, industrial relations in public sector corporations and companies under the control of the Central Government are a responsibility of the State. Arrangements differ in the case of certification of standing orders. Public sector industrial establishments in which the Central Government has 51% shares or more, get them certified by a machinery of the Central Government.
30.11 The fact that the main consideration for distribution of work among the different authorities is functional has by itself not simplified administrative difficulties. Problems in this area in some sectors of employment were brought to our notice. Operations which directly concern the exploitation of minerals are under the jurisdiction of the Centre; the processing units based on these minerals tall in the State sphere. Mica
mining, for instance, is an industry for which the appropriate Government is the Central Government both for enforcing working conditions and for settling disputes over conditions of work; a factory processing mica under the same management and in the same neighbourhood falls within the State sphere. Cement and iron and steel are other instances where such duality prevails. Labour in a cement/steel factory is under State/ jurisdiction, whereas persons engaged in extraction of minerals required for the factory, even where the mines are 'captive', are looked after by the Central authority. Under these arrangements, it is possible that the respective industrial relations machinery set up by the two authorities, the Centre and the State, may take different views in the same dispute and create conditions under which industrial relations will become strained. Bringing these within the purview of the same authority seems to be the obvious step.
Conflict of Jurisdiction
30.12 The case we have just mentioned is perhaps a simple illustration of the jurisdictional conflict. Complications arise in settling the areas of Central or State operation with reference to industries which cut across the boundaries of different States. These complications, we are aware, do not spread over the whole range of industries operating in different States. Traditions have been built up over long years and have not been challenged so far. Questions have arisen in the period under review, but these are confined only to the more prestigious industries. Fortunately, not many cases have occurred in which administration with reference to a particular industry was originally vested in the State Government but was sought to be transferred to a Central agency; in the very early years of the Industrial Disputes Act, banks and insurance companies were so transferred. In the last fifteen years, however, conflict of views has not been altogether absent between the Centre and the States when such proposals came up for discussion. Two views have emerged in the evidence before us in this connection.
30.13 According to one view, since law and order situations may arise in handling labour disputes—and law and order is the exclusive responsibility of the State Governments—labour relations, excluding those in sectors like Railways, Banks, the Life Insurance Corporation and Ports and Docks, taking these as illustrative, should be transferred to the State Governments. Most of the disputes will be of a local nature. The local officers of the State Government should be allowed to intervene and settle the disputes, which because of the distances involved, an officer from the Centre may take even longer to investigate. The argument about uniformity of wage scales and conditions of service urged in favour of transferring industries of all-India importance to the Central charge, in this view, no longer holds. Complete uniformity itself has doubtful merit, but such uniformity as is necessary can be best achieved by constituting wage boards as has been the current policy.
30.14 The other view is that industries in which the Central Government has acquired substantial stakes, should be brought under the authority of the Central Government for purposes of administration of labour laws, except the legislation pertaining to enforcement of working conditions' This will ensure uniformity of service conditions. The Central Government should exercise sole jurisdiction also over basic industries with units in more than one State, Cement, iron and steel, oil refineries and fertilisers—irrespective of their ownership—are the industries which have been cited as instances. It has been urged that:
(a) Disputes even of a local nature, but concerning a country-wide organisation generally have repercussions on the staff employed in the same industry in other States; it is necessary to follow certain general principles on a coordinated basis in settling them;
(b) Law and order problems can continue to be handled by the State Government, as in the case of other industrial undertakings falling in the Central sphere. If this arrangement has not created difficulties so far, there is no reason why apprehensions should be entertained on that score now;
(c) The Central Industrial Relations Machinery, through its regional offices all over the country, can intervene as expeditiously as the State machinery ; in any case, if the principle is accepted, this difficulty should not be allowed to stand in the way ; and
(d) The procedure of constituting wage boards is time consuming and, in any case, disputes concerning wages are not the only ones which cause difficulties.
Many unions, frustrated at the intervention or lack of intervention by State Governments, have supported this plea. Some employers, too, have done so for similar reasons. They have urged that industrial relations in centrally-controlled industries of all-India importance should be taken over by the Central Government.
30.15 It is not easy to give a categorical answer to the point thus raised before us. Whether or not in relation to any industrial dispute relating to any industry or category of industries, the Central Government should be treated as the appropriate Government for the purpose of the provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 will depend upon several factors, some of which are imponderable in their character. We would, therefore, be content to express our view that the solution to this difficult problem will have to be sought for in the Judicious exercise of the power vested in the Parliament to amend Section 2(a) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.
30.16 The next agency for administration is local bodies. Their jurisdiction is limited ; it is restricted to providing the inspectorate for implementing the legislation about shops and commercial establishments. Some local bodies manage transport undertakings : many others ran a host of services in public interest. But in these functions they are in the position of an employer and not a third party for administering labour legislation. The differences between the local bodies and their employees are labour disputes within the purview of the Industrial Disputes Act. In considering the responsibility of focal bodies as administrators of labour law, therefore, it is only the former function with reference to shops and commercial establishments which is important. With the growing consciousness among the employees covered by the Acts, as also the increase in the number of employees in this category, the implementation arrangements will acquire a measure of urgency in the years to come. We have, therefore, to assess the adequacy of this agency and see how its efficiency can be improved.
30.17 Government has act up independent corporations/boards for administering the benefits under the welfare and social security legislation enacted by it. Instances of these have been referred to already. Such corporations/ boards have varying degrees of autonomy according to the involvement of public funds in them. The policies for the working of these agencies are settled by tripartite bodies set up for the respective corporations/boards either under the relevant statute or by Government. Some suggestions in regard to their more efficient working have already figured in the earlier chapters. Others which have a bearing on the relationship between these bodies and Government will be discussed later.