“Labour was the first price, the original purchase money that was paid for all the things.it was not by gold or by silver, but by labour that all wealth of the world was originally purchased.” – Adam smith

By Shashank Kumar from Surendranath Law College, Calcutta University


May 1st also known as International Workers Day or Labour Day in over 80 countries, as it is associated with an achievements of the Labour Movement. The first May day celebrations took place on May 1st1890 after a proclamation by the first International Congress of Socialist parties in Europe on July 14th1889 in Paris to dedicate every year on this day to celebrate as the “Workers day of international Unity and Solidarity”.[i]

There was a time, when the atrocities on worker and labour were at extreme level. Be it a French or Russian revolution or a role in playing nationalism in pre independence times, worker and labour played a great role in making and removing an empire or a government. So, as to protect their legal rights, improve their condition, and to acknowledge them with their rights and duties, many Government made different law, codes and customs, in order to uplift their standard of living.

Talking about India, India holds 59th rank on the Index of Quality life and also with a rank of 48th of the global innovation index 2020. The country’s per capital income rises 6.8% to Rs 11,254 a month in a fiscal year of 2019-2020. For a prosperity of a country, per-capita income is a main indicator as it shows the ground reality of income.[ii]


Constitution of India also take the concern of labour right, as especially in India, labour law means those law which help in regulating and uplifting the condition of labours in India

As labour is the subject of concurrent list, the federal Indian government i.e. central and state government have sought to ensure a protection from exploitation of worker from biggies. Indian labour laws also had a connection with Indian independence movement, a worker who asked for a better condition and trade facilities was violently suppressed in pre independence. So a series of fundamental rights were embedded in Indian Constitution to uplift them.

Article 14 for equality, Article 15 for removal discrimination on the basis of caste, sex and Article 16 for equal opportunity, Article 19(1) for right to form association and unions, Article 23 prohibits all trafficking and forced labour, Article 24 prohibits child labour Article 41 creates a “right to work’’, under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act ,2005. Article 42, guides state to make provision for securing human condition and for maternity relief. Article 43 gives right to a living wage and also to ensure working conditions with an element standard of life. Article 43(A), and 42nd amendment creates and gives rights to all working class also it guides state to secure the participation of worker in the management of undertakings.[iii]


The Payment Of Wages Act, 1936 was passed by government in order to regulate the payment of wages to the certain class of the people, who are employed in the industry. It was enacted to safeguard the interest of industrial employees who are getting high salaries. This Act also ensures the payment of wages in a particular form and also provide rights against the irregularities in payment of wages and also unauthorised deductions by the employers.[iv]


In the very first instance, this Act applied to every person employed in any factory, or to any person employed upon any railway by a railway administrator, or either directly or by sub-contractor and to person employed in any industrial or either establishment projects.


As the Act, regulates the payment of wages to certain classes of person employed in any industry. The main objective of the payment of wages act, 1936  is not only to ensure regular and sufficient payment of wages , but also to rate the payment of overtime. This Act is mainly applicable to person employed in factory/ industrial establishment and drawings less than Rs.1600/- per month. This Act does not apply to persons whose wage rate is Rs. 10, 000 or more per month.

This Act provides responsibility for payment of wages, mode of payment of wages, fixation of wage period, time and deduction and also grants permission for which fines may be imposed and also a machinery to hear and decide complaints regarding the deduction from wages and decide malicious and vexations claims.

However, this Act did not included any bonus which is not payable under any award or settlement between parties or an order of court.


The history of legislation regarding minimum wages started from New Zealand in 1894, where the first laws were made in order to regulate to order minimum wages were enacted. This was the Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act.

By that India was under the British colonial rule and British was not in economic interests to replicate this global developments for the upliftment of Indian workers and also labours and also there were many customs which deteriorating the conditions of labourers and workers such as bounded labour, child labour, zamindari system, untouchability and many more.

As impacts of Industrialization broke out in India, the problem of payment of wages also took an ugly turn, where wages are not uniform and for this the industrial workers were forced to raise their heads against their exploitation.

With a view to ascertain the delays which occurred in the payment of wages who are employed in industry, in 1926 the Government of India addressed the local governments and also grants to impose fines on them. materials were collected and presented to Royal commission and then Government of India re-examined it and presented in legislative assembly with a purpose of eliciting opinions. As bill was not passed at that time, but on the reference of Select Committee bill was reintroduced in 1935, 2nd September.[v]

After independence, many rights and codes were introduced , in order to stop the deteriorating condition of labourers and also to uplift them.in 1943, The Standing Labour Committee and The Indian Labour Conference sets a Labour Investigation Committee to inquire into the matters relating  to working condition and minimum wages. In 1946, that Committee suggested specific legislations regarding to the regulations of minimum wages.

A new Committee was set up called “FAIR WAGES COMMITTEE”, to regulate and control the policy of fair wages. And, it consisted of representatives of employers, employees and government.

The Minimum Wages Act, 1948 laid down the detailed procedures for setting and listing minimum wages in various industries. the fixation was to be done by appropriate governments for different scheduled employments based on agriculture or non-agriculture, skilled or unskilled labour determined for different industries across various states for a specific time period. Once, wages is fixed, now it becomes the duty of employer to pay the said wages.

The National Floor Level Commission was introduced in 1991with a aim to reduce the disparity between minimum and different levels of average wage across the country. Though this commission is not a statutory measure , which means state does not have any obligation to increase the minimum wages according to the advice of this commission.


In 2019, The Code Of Wages enacted which replaces many legislations such as Payment Of Wages Act,1936, Minimum Wages Act,1948, Payment of Bonus Act, 1965, Equal Renumeration Act1976.[vi]

This Code given uniformity in definition of wages which includes basic pay, dearness allowance and also retaining allowance, also it provides there would be revision of minimum wages at intervals within the time period of five years. The major role that the Code consolidated different laws related to the payment of wages and also it allows state to make rules for implementation and calculation of wages and deduction manner.


In Arvind Mills Ltd. V. K.R. Gadgill, the Bombay high court observed that the purpose of this act is provide wages on time in particular form within a specified time period.

In Randhir Singh v. Union of India the Supreme Court held that the principle of ‘equal pay for equal work’ is not expressly declared by Constitution to be a fundamental right, but it is a constitutional goal under Articles 14, 16 and 39 (c) of the Constitution.

In Dhirendra Chamoli v. State of U.P, it was held that the principle of equal pay for equal work is also applicable to casual workers employed on daily wage basis.

Accordingly, it was held that persons employed in Nehru Yuvak Kendra as casual workers on daily wage basis and the same work as done by Class IV employees on regular basis therefore, entitled to the same salary and conditions of service. Such denial would amount to violation of Article 14.


This Act of 1936 was a well intentioned piece of legislation, which aims to make the balance with the interests of workers or wage earner.it came in midst of industrialization, when payment of wages was becoming an ugly problem.so as to prevent from unauthorized deduction, this Act played a major role and also as it regulates the payment regarding the overtime that clearly means this act was made in order to protect workers and wage earners  rights from exploitation.


[i]   https://www.officeholidays.com/holidays/labour-day

[ii]   https://www.counterview.net/2019/09/india-performs-poorly-in-quality-of.html

[iii]   http://www.legalservicesindia.com/article/181/Constitutional-Protection-on-Labour-Laws.html

[iv]   https://www.slideshare.net/vaishupv/the-payment-of-wages-act-1936

[v]  https://maitri.mahaonline.gov.in/pdf/payment-of-wages-act-1936.pdf

[vi]   https://medium.com/nyaaya/history-of-minimum-wages-legislation-looking-at-india-and-the-code-on-wages-536b016739b1


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