Individual instances of hardship and inconvenience cannot become a ground to declare a provision as unconstitutional

Bombay High Court: While deciding the present petition challenging the vires of Section 16(1) and Second Proviso to Section 13 of the Motor Transport Workers Act, 1961, the Division Bench of Manjula Chellur, C.J., and M.S. Sonak, J., dismissed the petition stating that the impugned provisions express a legislative policy and individual instances of hardship and inconvenience cannot become a ground to declare a provision as unconstitutional. The Court further held that when it comes to determination of hours and limitation for employment, the courts cannot insist on mathematical and precise calculation covering diverse situations and possible contingencies arising due to the inherent complexities involved in the society. The Court went on to state that the impugned provisions had been enacted to benefit the motor transport workers the motor transport workers transport on most occasions the members of the public and if the motor transport workers are over-strained, there is possibility of accidents

The counsel for the petitioner put forth  that the impugned provisions are arbitrary and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution. She further contended that requiring any motor transport workers to work beyond 8 hours in any day or more than 48 hours in any week, adversely affects the right to life of such workers, constitutes bonded labour thereby violating Article 21. It was further contended that Section 16(1) of the 1961 Act which permits spread over of more than 12 hours in any day takes no cognizance whatsoever of the conditions of service in metropolitan areas where, it is practically impossible for the workers to afford any housing.

Perusing the contentions, the Court observed that the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Motor Transport Workers Act, 1961 make it clear that there was need for an independent legislation applicable to motor transport workers as a whole. The Court stated that the purpose of the Second Proviso to Section 13 which provides that in case of a breakdown or dislocation of a motor transport service or interruption of traffic the employer may, subject to such conditions and limitations require or allow any such motor transport workers to work for more than 8 hours in any day or more than 48 hours in any week and the same had been enacted to make an exception or to exclude the situation, which would otherwise be covered in the main enactment. However, that does not render the proviso unconstitutional. The Court elucidated upon the principles of constitutionality and stated that a court cannot declare a provision unconstitutional only on grounds of hardship. For a law that allegedly violates Article 14 of the Constitution, the Courts must ensure that the tests of arbitrariness and unreasonableness are satisfied. The Court finally observed that on construction of the impugned provisions in its entirety, they do not violate Article 21 either. [BEST Worker’s Union v. Union of India, 2016 SCC OnLine Bom 9279, decided on 24.10.2016]


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