Headload Workers; Amma Granites & Tiles Vs. District Labour Officer [Kerala High Court, 05-08-2016]

Kerala Headload Workers Act, 1978 – Kerala Headload Workers Rules, 1981 – Kerala Headload Workers (Regulation and Employment) Scheme, 1983 –  What is the intent and purport of the Act? Was it enacted only for the welfare of the headload workers coming within the purview of the Act? Held, the predominant object of the Act is to afford social and legal protection to the headload workers and also to put in place the measures for their welfare. However, it can be seen from the very definition of “headload workers” itself that certain persons doing loading and unloading work by carrying load on head or person or otherwise, in certain situations, cannot be treated as headload workers covered by the Act. More precisely stated, a person engaged by an individual for domestic purposes, which has been explained in Explanation-I to Section 2(m) of the Act, shall not be regarded as a headload worker and therefore he cannot claim any benefit under the Act. Similarly, a person engaged for handling delicate or sophisticated articles, explained in Explanation-II to the above definition clause, is also excluded from the purview of the Act. Likewise, in an area where the Scheme is not made applicable, no provision of this Act or the Rules would compel an employer to engage a headload worker having registration under Rule 26 A of the Rules. In this context, the expression “to regulate” occurring in the Long Title and Preamble of the Act assumes importance. Oxford Thesaurus of English indicates that the word “regulate” may mean control, adjust, manage, balance, set, synchronize, modulate, tune, etc, depending on the context. According to us, in the context of this Act, the word “regulate” must be ascribed the meanings such as adjust, control, balance, modulate or synchronize. The provisions of the Act not only regulate the rights of the headload workers vis-a-vis the employers, but by excluding certain class of loading and unloading activities from the purview of the Act and also by insisting on the commencement of the functional operation of the Scheme in a particular area for the application of the Act and Rules, the public in general and certain employers engaged in certain business activities in particular are saved from the entanglements of the Act. The expression in the Long Title and Preamble of the Act, viz., “an Act to regulate the employment of Headload Workers” has a direct bearing on the rights of the public at large because the regulations will bring in certainty in the matters like quantum of wages payable to them and the details of activities excluded from the purview of the Act. Viewing from this angle, it can be stated that the Act confers benefit on certain persons other than the headload workers too. Point No.I therefore decided accordingly.


IN THE HIGH COURT OF KERALA AT ERNAKULAM

K.T.SANKARAN & A.HARIPRASAD, JJ.

W.P.(C) Nos.17779 of 2016 (V) & 19566 of 2016 (U)

Dated this the 5th day of August, 2016

PETITIONER

AMMA GRANITES AND TILES REPRESENTED BY ITS MANAGING PARTNER, MR.LENIN P.P., NADAKKAVU, UDAYAMPEROOR, ERNAKULAM DISTRICT.

BY ADVS.SRI.PHILIP T.VARGHESE SRI.THOMAS T.VARGHESE SMT.ACHU SUBHA ABRAHAM SRI.MONISHA K.R.

RESPONDENTS

1. THE DISTRICT LABOUR OFFICER ERNAKULAM – 682 030.

2. THE ASSISTANT LABOUR OFFICER 1ST CIRCLE, ERNAKULAM – 682 030.

3. THE SUB INSPECTOR OF POLICE UDAYAMPEROOR – 682 307.

4. THE CHAIRMAN KERALA HEAD LOAD WORKERS WELFARE BOARD, TRIPUNITHURA SUB OFFICE, HILL PALACE ROAD, MARKET JUNCTION, TRIPUNITHURA – 682 301.

5. REJENDRAN SECRETARY, INTUC LOADING AND UNLOADING WORKERS UNION, UDAYAMPEROOR – 682 307.

6. PRAKASAN SECRETARY, ERNAKULAM DISTRICCT HEADLOAD AND GENERAL WORKERS UNION, UDAYAMPEROOR – 682 307.

7. THE POOL LEADER OF POOL NO.13 CONSTITUTED UNDER THE KERALA HEAD LOAD WORKERS WELFARE FUND BOARD, UDAYAMPEROOR – 682 307.

8. THE POOL LEADER OF POOL NO.13 A CONSTITUTED UNDER THE KERALA HEAD LOAD WORKERS WELFARE FUND BOARD, UDAYAMPEROOR – 682 307.

R4 BY ADV. SRI.C.S. AJITH PRAKASH, STANDING COUNSEL, KERALA HEADLOAD WORKERS WELFARE BOARD. R1 TO R3 BY GOVERNMENT PLEADER SRI.P.P.THAJUDEEN R5 TO R8 BY ADV. SRI.JOHN K.GEORGE R5 TO R8 BY ADV. SRI.C.K.SURESH

COMMON JUDGMENT

A. Hariprasad, J.

In these writ petitions for police protection, common questions of fact and law arise. We therefore deem it fit to deal with them together. W.P.(C) No.17779 of 2016 is taken as the leading case.

2. Facts, in brief, are as follows: Amma Granites and Tiles represented by its managing partner is the petitioner in W.P.(C) No.17779 of 2016. It is a registered partnership firm. The firm was established in 2013 for doing business in granites and flooring tiles. Its shop and godown are in Udayamperoor in Ernakulam District. Petitioner has secured all the required licences for doing business. Udayamperoor is an area to which the Scheme framed under the

Kerala Headload Workers Act, 1978

(in short, “the Act”) applies. But, the petitioner’s unit is not an “establishment” as defined in Section 2(j) of the Act. The work of loading and unloading in the petitioner’s unit is only occasional. Regular staff members in the petitioner’s unit could do the same. Therefore, the Act, Rules and the Scheme do not apply to the petitioner’s unit. Petitioner’s unit is situated at Udayamperoor North, where pool Nos.13 and 13A, constituted under the Scheme, operate. In Udayamperoor North area, there are only five business concerns dealing with granite and flooring tiles. Rates fixed for loading and unloading of granite and tiles by the unions are much higher than the rates fixed by the unions in the nearby areas. In Udayamperoor South area, where other pools of headload workers operate, the rates fixed are much less, despite the fact that both the areas are in the same Panchayat limit. Maradu is a nearby area where similar business concerns are functioning. Rates for loading and unloading in that area is lesser than Udayamperoor North area. Respondents 5 to 8 demanded exorbitant rate for loading and unloading works in the petitioner’s business concern. In spite of pointing out the disparity in the rates between Udayamperoor North area and the nearby areas and also seeking reduction in the rate or for fixation of uniform rates, no action was taken by the authorities concerned. Due to the unlawful and unconscionable bargaining put up by respondents 5 to 8, the businessmen in Udayamperoor North area are forced to stop bringing in loads to their premises. Therefore, the petitioner seeks a writ of mandamus or other appropriate writ to the 3 rd respondent (Sub Inspector of Police, Udayamperoor) to provide effective protection to the petitioner for smoothly conducting the loading and unloading of granite and tiles without any obstruction or threat from respondents 5 to 8. It is also their contention that they have approached the 1 st respondent (District Labour Officer, Ernakulam) for unification of rates. Therefore, he seeks a writ of mandamus or other appropriate writ to the 1 st respondent to take a final decision in the proceedings pursuant to Ext.P4 notice within a specified time inter alia other reliefs. 3. 1 st respondent filed a statement. It is submitted that wages of the headload workers attached to the shops are fixed as per minimum wages notifications. Wages of other headload workers are fixed through negotiation talks between the employers and employees or through conciliation procedure of the Labour Department. Agreement executed between the employers and workers are binding among themselves and no action could be taken by the Labour Department for violation, if any, of that agreement.

4. 4 th respondent (Chairman, Kerala Headload Workers Welfare Board) filed a statement to the effect that the petitioner’s business concern is situated in Udayamperoor Grama Panchayat, which is an area where the