When the entire state is working to ensure justice for the masses, it cannot allow injustice
to be perpetrated against the weaker sections of society - whether they be industrial
workers, agricultural workers or any other group.
- Sri. Khandubhai Desai

The unorganized sector in India plays an important role in the development of the
economy. Around 92% of India's population consists of unorganized workers. The
unorganized workers do not have enough means to provide security for themselves.
Social security for workers is important for the workers families and for the community.
Most unorganized workers face many problems like low wages, work hazards, etc. The
Unorganized Workers Social Security Act, 2008 is the legislation enacted by the
government that provides social security benefits to the unorganized workers. The Indian
judiciary plays an important role in protecting the rights of the unorganized sector.
There are many schemes and policies for the unorganized workers that provides social
security and many more benefits for the welfare of the workers.
The concept of social security protection for industrial workers is not new to India. In
India, the laws relating to social security owes its origin to the concept of social security
as envisaged by the International Labour Organization. The legal regime pertaining to
social security protection to industrial workers in India commenced during the British rule
with the enactment of the Workmen’s Compensation Act, 1923.The basic idea behind
the formulation of this legislation is to provide a measure of financial protection to an
industrial worker in the event of unemployment situation caused by specific eventualities.
The ILO in its founding convention has strongly propounded the concept of social
security for industrial workers on the premise that the state cannot remain as a mere
spectator for various kinds of risks exposed at the work place by industrial workers after
the advent of large-scale industries. This legislation is a well drafted legislation providing
a measure of social security protection for the industrial workers in the event of any
personal injuries suffered by them out of and in the course of their employment or for any
occupational diseases contacted by the workers which are peculiar to their employment.
The law provides reasonable measure of compensation in the event of any disability or
death suffered by the workmen out of and in the course of their employment. This law is
based on the common law principles of employer’s liability.
The law defines the terms ‘workman’ and the ‘employer’ for the purposes of the
applicability of the legislation and it applies to the workers employed both in organized and unorganized sectors. Later, the country witnessed the enactment of other social
security legislations broadly basing on contributory system. With this initiation, the
concept of social security assumed a new dimension and now it is viewed as a saving as
long as an industrial worker is in employment and as an income when he is unemployed
for any reason. The situation of unemployment may arise due to many factors, namely,
disability or invalidity in the event of industrial injuries, sickness, death, old age,
temporary loss of earning capacity due to confinement period in case of women workers
or loss of earning capacity due to loss of employment.
The workers and employers are two pillars of our national economy. The relationship
between workers and employers is one of partnership in the maintenance of production and say, the building up of the national economy. Proper regulation of employer- employee relationship is a condition precedent for planned, progressive and purposeful development of society. In this connection, the social and economic upliftment of the labour is important for securing industrial piece, which is essential to increase the national productivity
. The total labour force can broadly be divided into two categories:
• organised
• unorganised labour.
A plethora of laws have been enacted in order to protect and safeguard the interests of
organised labour. But the condition of unorganised labour is very miserable in the
absence of sufficient labour legislations.
The First National Commission on Labour, undshops and commercial establishments; sweepers and scavengers; workers in tanneries;
tribal labour and other unprotected labour.
Therefore, it is equite evident that the unorganised sector is too vast to remain within the
confines of a conceptual definition. Sometimes, it is also defined as the residual of the
organised sector. In view of the above, descriptive means are often used to identify the
unorganised or informal sector. The below mentioned are some characteristics of
employments or undertakings in which unorganised labour is employed. These
characteristics are low scale of organization; operation of labour relations on a casual
basis or on the basis of kinship or personal relations; small own account (household) or
family-owned enterprises or micro enterprises; involvement of family labourers; easy
entry and exit; free mobility within the sector; use of indigenous resources and
technology; unregulated or unprotected nature; absence of fixed working hours; lack of
security of employment and other social security benefits and lack of support from
Under section 2(m)3 of the Unorganized Workers Social Security Act, 2008, the term
unorganized worker' means a home-based worker or a self- employed worker or a wage
worker in the unorganized sector. It includes a worker in the organized sector who is not
covered by any of the acts pertaining to welfare schemes as mentioned in Schedule II of
Unorganized Workers Social Security Act, 2008. Unorganized workers take over the
Indian labour market and represent 90% of the total Indian workforce. Unorganized
sector in India is one of the largest in the post- industrial world
Unorganized Workers are people who do not have the benefit of pension, maternity leave,
provident fund, gratuity etc. These workers work on daily and hourly wages. The
unorganized labour in India is enormous when it comes to its number range and hence,
they are omnipresent in India. The unorganized sector has to put up with cycles of
excessive seasonality of employment because most of the unorganized workers do not
have secure durable avenues of employment. Unorganized workers have no formal
employer employee relationship and their workplace is scattered and disintegrated.
Unorganized workers are subjected to indebtedness as their income does not meet with
their living needs. These workers face exploitation, harassment, discrimination by the rest
of the society.

In India, 90% of the workforces are engaged in unorganized sector. As being the weaker
section in the society, they deal with many problems. Even though the unorganized sector
contributes to the economy, they are faced with many challenges. They are:er the chairmanship of Justice
GAJENDRAGADKAR, defined the unorganised sector as that part of the workforce who
have not been able to organize in pursuit of a common objective because of constraints
such as
(a) casual nature of employment,
(b) ignorance and illiteracy,
(c) Small size of establishments with low capital investment per person employed,
(d) scattered nature of establishments and
(e) superior strength of the employer operating singly or in combination.
The commission further listed the various categories of unorganised labour. These are
contract labour including construction workers; casual labour; labour employed in small
scale industry; handloom/power-loom workers; beedi and cigar workers; employees in High level of insecurities in jobs: Unorganized workers depend on various jobs
due to insecurity of work. Factors like climate change, locations etc. affect the
employment opportunities for unorganized workers. For example, agricultural
sector in India is highly irregular and unassured. This is because of the availability
of work to them. They are engaged only for 3 months in a year and the remaining
9 months they are either unemployed or they search for alternative jobs to sustain
from starvation.

2. Minimum wages: Sec 2(h) of Minimum Wages Act, 1948 defines the term
Wages'. It means remuneration capable of being expressed in terms of money
which would if the terms of the contract of employment express or implied were
fulfilled be payable to a person employed in respect of his employment or of work
done in such employment and includes house rent allowance4

. Even though the act
defines the term, the workers are not paid minimum wages in most cases. In
Peoples' Union for Democratic Rights v. Union of India5

, the Supreme Court
held that even if poverty forces anyone to work for minimum wage, Article 23
prohibits employing workers for wages below the statutory minimum level as it
results in forced labour.

3. Long working hours: In the Unorganized sector, long working hours are beyond
the labour and regulatory norms which is standard in India. The agricultural sector
has no fixed working hours as there are no laws that regulate the working hours
for the agricultural sector. In the other unorganized sectors, the working hours are
fixed from 12- 15 hours and their wages depend on the hours their work for their
employer. As most of the workers are illiterate and are dependent on the wages
given by the employer they are exploited by the employer as they force the
workers to work for more hours.
4. Work hazards, occupational safety and living conditions: Unorganized workers
are exposed to dangerous working conditions which affects their health conditions.
They face many health problems because they have low nutrition and their
excessive physical activities. Due to their low income, they are unable to pay for
their medical expenses. Workers who work in firework factories, tobacco
factories, and matchstick factories are prone to respiratory diseases because of
inhaling the tobacco dust, fire powder etc. Workers in agricultural sector are
affected by excessive use of pesticide, insecticide and fertilizers. Unorganized
workers live in slum areas and unsanitary conditions. Basic facilities like washing
areas, toilet facilities etc. are below standard.

5. Women and children are unprotected: Art 39(d) of the Constitution of India
talks about equal pay for equal work. This means that all workers should be given
equal wages irrespective of their sex. Wages given to men are more than the
wages given to women and children for their equal hours of work. Many children
are forced to work in households, dhabas, and tea shops for low wages. Children
work for long working hours and they are exposed to many hazardous working
conditions which affect their health. Women are sexually harassed and assaulted in
many workplaces. Women experience many physical and mental problems and
they are not aware of their rights.

The social security schemes in India cover only a small segment of the organised

workforce, which may be defined as workers who are having a direct regular employer-
employee relationship within an organization. The social security legislation in India

derives their strength and spirit from the Directive Principles of the State Policy as
contained in the Constitution of India. Social security is a dynamic concept. It varies from
time to time and country to country. The International Labour organization has defined
social security as:
The security that the society furnishes through appropriate organization against certain
risks to which its members are exposed. These risks are essentially contingencies against
which the individual of small means cannot effectively provide by his own ability or
foresight alone or even in private combination with fellows.
The term social security has also been endorsed by the first National Commission on
Labour in the following manner:
Social security envisages that the members of a community shall be protected by
collective action against social risks causing undue hardship and privation to individuals
whose prime resources can seldom be adequate to meet them.
In India, the organised sector, which accounts for about 7% of the total workforce,
benefit from a fair minimum standard of social security. However, in contrast to this, the
unorganised or informal sector which comprises roughly of 93 percent of the labour force
have only a minimal social security arrangement. So far there is no specific or
comprehensive schemes or legislation at the national level, which exclusively address the
issues of unorganised sector6

It was realized by the Government that the unorganised sector is growing at an alarming
rate, where majority of the workers are left with no social security to fall back upon
during contingencies and old age. It was also realised by the policy makers that the
existing legal and protective frames have become grossly inadequate to address the issues
of unorganised sector workers. Therefore, in view of the above, the Parliament ultimately passed the Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008 (hereinafter referred to as
the Act) for providing social security to the unorganised workers.

ACT, 2008:
The Unorganized Workers Social Security Act, 2008 was passed by the Parliament of
India on December 30, 2008. This act aims to provide social security and welfare to the
unorganized sector. The Central Government and State Government has made various
schemes connected to life, disability, old age, housing, education, employment etc. These
schemes are funded by the Central and State Government. This act is applicable to whole
of India, specifically for the unorganized sector. For the implementation of the law, the
government has constituted the National Social Security Board and the State Social
Security Board.

• Formulation of schemes by the Central Government for different sections of
unorganised workers on matters relating to
1. life and disability cover
2. health and maternity benefits
3. old age protection
4. any other benefit as may be determined by the Central Government.
• Formulation of schemes relating to provident fund, employment injury benefits,
housing, educational schemes for children, skill upgradation, funeral assistance
and old age homes by the State Governments.
• Funding of the schemes to be specified in the scheme itself.
• Constitution of National Social Security Board under the chairmanship of Union
Minister for Labour & Employment, Member Secretary and 34 nominated
members representing Members of Parliament, unorganised workers, employers of
unorganised workers, civil society, Central Ministries and State Governments.
• Adequate representation to persons belonging to the Scheduled Castes, the
Scheduled Tribes, the Minorities and Women.
• The functions of National Board, inter-alia, include: to recommend to the Central
Government suitable schemes for different sections of unorganised workers;
monitor the implementation of schemes and advise the Central Government on
matters arising out of the administration of the Act.
• Section 6 has provision for constitution of similar Boards at the State level.
Identification and Registration of Workers at the District level and issuance of
Smart Cards to them.7

Unpaid women workers are excluded: Unpaid women workers are not covered
by the Act because they do not fall within the definitions of self-employed
workers, wage workers or home-based workers. According to these definitions,
getting wages or monthly earnings are condition precedent for being considered as
unorganised workers. Therefore, the thing which gives pain is that the monetary
value of women’s work is not measured. However, it should not be a reason for
denying social security to women workers. Moreover, the problems of security,
sexual harassment, proper accommodation for migrant women workers, issues
relating to nature of work and industrial safety, gender wage gap, non-payment of
wages, child care facilities at work spot etc. have been totally ignored.

Unorganised workers deprived of other existing benefits: It is pertinent and
relevant to mention here that many labour laws in India are of universal
application to all workers irrespective of the number of workers working in the
establishment. But it is laid down in Section 2(m) of the Act that the unorganised
worker “include a worker in the organised sector who is not covered by any of the
Acts mentioned in Schedule II 16 of the Act.8

It leads to the inference that the benefits under The Workman’s Compensation Act
and the Maternity Benefit Act are now denied to the workers working in
establishment employing less than 10 workers.
Therefore, it is clearly evident that Section 2(m) of the Act limits the applicability
of the Acts mentioned in Schedule
In other words, we can say that Section 2(m) takes away certain rights all
workmen enjoy de jure.

Social security-not justiciable: A right is justiciable if the aggrieved party can
seek remedy in a Court of law, in case it is violated. But to make a right justiciable
it should be clearly defined. The object of the Act is to provide social security and
welfare to the unorganised workers, but it does not confer any defined right to
social security for them. The schemes relating to social security are mentioned in
Schedule I of the Act. This clearly means that these schemes can be changed at any time by way of a notification, and not after discussion in the Parliament. This
denies the unorganised workers the benefit of consistency and justiciability. It is
also a fact that these schemes are arbitrarily changed by the government through
administrative notifications. Therefore, it is submitted that the content of the
schemes should not be changed without the approval of the Parliament. Moreover,
the government should not change the schemes unilaterally.

No Social Security Fund: It is very surprising to know that the Act does not
provide for the creation of a social security fund for unorganised workers, even
though the Parliamentary Standing Committee has made the following observation
The committee feels that social security schemes cannot just work without any
statutory backing and assured resources allocation. It would not be proper to tailor
the schemes or reduce their number on the consideration of funds. Funds flow
system for the schemes has been kept virtually undefined and wide open thereby
allowing total flexibility to the government in the matter of deciding and
operationalising the schemes as per its convenience. Thus, the committee are
inclined to infer that an ad hoc approach has been adopted on such an important
aspect of the Bill. This will only make the schemes dysfunctional. The Committee,
therefore, strongly recommend that a proper, transparent and institutional
mechanisms devising clear and unambiguous methodology for generating
resources be laid down paving the way for creation of a National Social Security
and Welfare Fund. The Committee are of the opinion that creation of National
Social Security and Welfare Fund will ensure permanency, continuity and
sustainability of social security benefits. Therefore, the Act should have provided
for the creation of a social security fund and a financial memorandum for
budgetary allocation for the fund.

No mechanism for implementation of the Act: The Act has been introduced by
the Ministry of Labour, the social security schemes mentioned in schedule I are
managed by various ministries. Section 8 of the Act gives the record keeping
functions of the provision of social security for unorganised workers to the district
administration, the Panchayats and to the local urban bodies. Labour
administration has no role to play in the implementation of the Act. This is very
painful.9 Therefore, a modal ministry is essential for its effective implementation.

No grievance redressal machinery: The Act does not provide for a grievance
redressal mechanism, even though it was strongly recommended by the
Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour. Grievance redressal mechanism is
a sine qua non for the fair and effective implementation of an Act. Moreover, there
is no provision for penalties in the Act to punish those employers who violate the provisions of the Act. In addition to it, there would be no action against the
bureaucrats who refuse to register any unorganised worker under any of the
scheduled schemes. These problems are required to be taken care of.

When there is a failure of proper implementation of legislations, the judiciary protects the
rights of unorganized workers. Apart from legislations, the Constitution of India grants
fundamental rights to the unorganized workers. Any person who works but not paid
minimum wages for the work he does, then it violates Art 21 of the Constitution of India.
Article 21 states that the bonded labour should be recognized by the government. Every
State Government has to provide basic human dignity to bonded labour.

 Sanjit Roy V. State of Rajasthan10, the court held that whenever any person who
works for the state is affected by drought or scarcity, the state shall not pay him
minimum wages as it violates Art 23 of the Constitution of India. Any labour work
done by prisoners and if they are not paid minimum wages, it means it is forced
labour and it infringes Art 23 of the Constitution

 Daily Rated Casual Labour v. Union of India, the court held that if the
workers are classified into regular and working employees, then it leads to
infringement of Art 14 and 16 of the Constitution. No person can refuse to render
services to any worker on the ground that they belong to scheduled caste. The
judiciary should protect the rights of unorganized sector and should implement
social security welfare schemes for the benefit of the unorganized workers

Social security is necessary for the welfare of unorganized workers. There was no specific
legislation on social security for unorganized workers. The unorganized workers are
covered under various policies formulated by the government.

National Policy on Skill Development:
The National Policy on Skill Development empowers individuals to improve skills,
knowledge, nationally and internationally recognize qualifications to gain better job
opportunities. The aim of this policy is to enhance individual's employability and ability
to adapt to changing technologies.
It aims to improve productivity and standard of living for workers. The objective of the
policy is to create opportunities to workers including women and youth who are skilled in
the work they do. It also aims to develop a high-quality workforce related to current and
emerging market needs. It helps to attract investment in skill development and strengthen
competitiveness in the country

National Policy on Safety, Health and Environment at Work Place
Safety and health of the unorganized workers have a positive impact on productivity,
economic and social development. The goals of this policy are to improve safety, :-
and environment at workplaces.
The objectives are to reduce work related accidents, harmful diseases and cover the
financial requirements for the people affected. It also aims in spreading awareness about
safety, health and environment related issues. It establishes suitable schemes for
unorganized workers regarding subsidies. It enforces all rules and regulations regarding
safety, health and environment at workplace. It ensures that all the workers and
employers have rights and responsibilities in achieving safe and healthy working

National Policy on HIV AIDS
National Policy on HIV AIDS is necessary to provide guidelines to unorganized workers
about the HIV AIDS infection. To fight against HIV AIDS, stigma and discrimination is
an important challenge. Due to lack of understanding, most employers from both public
and private sector have not taken up workplace intervention.
In the next 10- 12 years, India's growth will create around 10 million jobs and most
workers will be young workers. If there is a spread of HIV AIDS, then it would affect the
economic growth of the country16. In order to prevent this, workplace policies should
have appropriate services and provide information regarding the same. The aim of this
policy is to prevent the transmission of HIV AIDS amongst the workers. It also aims to
provide access to treatment and protects the rights of the affected workers.

National Child Labour Policy:-  On 14th August 1987, the National Child Labour Policy was approved by the cabinet.
The main objective of this policy was to eliminate child labour in hazardous working
sectors. In this scheme, the target group was for children aged below 14 years and who
worked in places where children were affected with health problems.
The policy aims to launch for the welfare of children who are working in areas where
there is high concentration of child labour. The policy focuses on rehabilitation of
children who work in hazardous working areas. Activities like formal, non- formal
education, raising public awareness by conducting campaigns and rallies are etc.
conducted by the government to eliminate child labour.

Unorganised labour system is not new for our country. Its origin can be traced from the
caste hierarchy and feudal structure. In our country unorganised labour, which forms 93
percent of the total labour force, is in existence in its various forms and are facing
numerous problems. The main problem of unorganised labour is related to their social and
economic exploitation. The social security schemes in India cover only a small segment
of the organised workforce. The condition of unorganised labour is very miserable in the
absence of sufficient labour legislations.
Therefore, in view of the above, The Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008
was enacted so as to confer the benefit of social security schemes upon the unorganised
workers. However, the analysis and evaluation of the provisions of the Act reveals that
Act has inherent structural gaps and inadequacies that make the Act totally ineffective in
providing social security to the unorganised workers. Social security to unorganised
workers has been narrowed down to ten paltry social security schemes. The Act does not
guarantee any justiciable right to social security for workers. It also does not contain a
provision for the creation of social security fund. Moreover, the Act is discriminatory and
takes away rights emanating from other existing labour legislations. It has no provision to
punish those employers who violate it.
The problems of women unorganised workers do not figure in the Act. Absence of
dispute redressal mechanism makes the Act more ineffective. The national and state
boards for unorganised workers are toothless bodies. Therefore, in view of the above the
Act must be taken as a beginning and we have yet to cover a long distance.
Though, the rights of the unorganized workers are protected by various articles in the
constitution of India. The unorganized workers should be given awareness regarding their
health, living, and wages and should not be exploited by the employers in their working


1) Meenu Paul, Labour and Industrial Laws, Allahabad Law Agency, New
Delhi, 9
th Ed. 2014

2) S.C. Srivastva, Social Security and Labour Laws





(2010LJ 1)




Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) was originally established in 1946 as a sub- commission of the Commission on Human Rights, but quickly granted the status of full commission as a result of the pressure exerted by women's activists. The mandate of the CSW included the preparation of recommendations relating to urgent problems requiring immediate attention in the field of women's rights with the object of implementing the principle that men and women should have equal rights.1 In 1974, at its twenty-fifth session and in the light of the report of this working group, the Commission decided, in principle, to prepare a single, comprehensive and internationally binding instrument to eliminate discrimination against women. This instrument was to be prepared without prejudice to any future recommendations that might be made by the United Nations or its specialized agencies with respect to the preparation of legal instruments to eliminate discrimination in specific fields. On 18 December 1979, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly at New York. At the special ceremony that took place at the Copenhagen Conference on 17 July 1980, 64 States signed the Convention and two States submitted their instruments of ratification. On 3 September 1981, 30 days after the twentieth member State had ratified it, the Convention entered into force - faster than any previous human rights convention had done - thus bringing to a climax United Nations efforts to codify comprehensively international legal standards for women. By the tenth anniversary of the Convention in 1989, almost one hundred nations have agreed to be bound by its provisions.


What is CEDAW?


 The Convention was the culmination of more than thirty years of work by the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. Among the international human rights treaties, the Convention takes an important place in bringing the female half of humanity into the focus of human rights concerns. The spirit of the Convention is rooted in the goals of the United Nations: to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women. The present document spells out the meaning of equality and how it can be achieved. In so doing, the Convention establishes not only an international bill of rights for women, but also an agenda for action by countries to guarantee the enjoyment of those rights. By accepting the Convention, States commit themselves to undertake a series of measures to end discrimination against women in all forms, including

: · to incorporate the principle of equality of men and women in their legal system, abolish all discriminatory laws and adopt appropriate ones prohibiting discrimination against women;

· to establish tribunals and other public institutions to ensure the effective protection of women against discrimination; and

 · to ensure elimination of all acts of discrimination against women by persons, organizations or enterprises.



Contents of the CEDAW  [1]


The preamble of the Convention states the general premise of eliminating discrimination. Article 1 defines discrimination against women as "...any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field". Articles 2 -6 cover the general obligations to be undertaken by State Parties such as, for example, to implement the principle of the equality of men and women in legislation as well as to prohibit by law or other means all discrimination against women; further to establish legal protection of the rights of women, national tribunals and other public institutions to ensure the effective protection of women against discrimination

The Articles 7 - 16 specify the different areas that particularly affect women and the state obligations in that regard. This list of areas and measures is not an exhaustive coverage of all areas of gender discrimination; for instance it does not explicitly address violence against women.

Articles 17 - 30 describe working procedures, reporting mechanisms and dynamic aspects of the Conventi on, which include important points such as the establishment of a "Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women" which shall be elected by the Member States (Article 17) By 2017, 35 recommendations had been adopted by the CEDAW Committee.


State Reports

 As soon as a State has ratified the Convention it has to report in the first year and thereafter every four years to the CEDAW Committee or whenever the CEDAW Committee requests it. The State report shall focus on the legislative, judicial, and administrative or other measures which have been adopted to implement the provisions of the present Convention including the General Recommendations and on the progress made, State Reports should also indicate factors and difficulties affecting the degree of fulfilment of obligations under CEDAW. These procedures are regulated under Article 18 of the Convention.

 NGO participation

The CEDAW Committee also supports the submission of country - specific information from NGOs in the form of alternative or shadow reports to the State Reports. NGOs can submit their reports to the Committee prior to or at the session concerned; the shadow report will be considered for the Concluding Comments and recommendations to the State party

Concluding comments

  CEDAW by UN Women watch 19 oct, 2005  Concluding comments, also known as Concluding Observations are recommendations issued by the Committee following the review of those States (and shadow) reports. The CEDAW Committee comments on the progress made by the State Party in implementing its obligations under the treaty and make recommendations for improvement. Optional Protocol On 6 October 1999 the General Assembly adopted a 21 - article Optional Protocol to the CEDAW Convention and called on all CEDAW States parties to ratify the new instrument.  State parties have ratified the Optional Protocol and recognize the competence of the CEDAW Committee to receive and consider complaints from individuals or groups. The Protocol contains two procedures:

 (1) An individual complaint/communications procedure, which provides individuals and groups the right to lodge complaints with the CEDAW Committee, a guideline to this procedure can be found on the CEDAW website;

 (2) An inquiry procedure, which enables the CEDAW Committee to conduct inquiries into serious and systematic abuses of women`s rights. These mechanisms are only applicable in countries that are states parties to the Optional Protocol.


Indian Scenario

To date, 187 out of 193 United Nations member states have ratified CEDAW. In 1994, India ratified the Convention of the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) treaty. According to India Today’s newspaper article dated June 2011, India is the fourth most dangerous place for women in the world. “The poll conducted among 213 gender experts who ranked countries on their overall perception of danger, as well as by six key categories of risks--health, sexual violence, nonsexual violence, harmful practices rooted in culture, tradition or religion, lack of access to economic resources and human trafficking” In 1997 a group of women’s NGOs brought a petition to the Supreme Court of India on behalf of a woman who had been brutally gang raped by her colleagues in a village in Rajasthan Vishaka and others v. State of Rajasthan and others [2](1997). The victim, a publicly employed social worker, had been visiting a rural village to investigate a claim of child marriage when she was gang-raped. Local officials failed to investigate the crime, in part because no laws existed in India to protect women from sexual harassment in the workplace or while on the job. The women’s organizations filed a class action suit under Article 32 of the Constitution to seek court enforcement of the rights of working women, and cited India’s commitments under Articles 11 and 24 of CEDAW. The court declared that through its ratification of CEDAW and its commitment to the Beijing Platform of Action, India had endorsed the international standard of women’s human rights, which must include protection from sexual harassment. The court also drew up a set of implementing guidelines and norms, including detailed requirements for processing sexual harassment complaints.





 Bride Burning – Dowry Abuse Bride burning or dowry deaths are when a bride is doused with a flammable liquid, usually kerosene, and lit on fire by a husband and/or in-laws when they determine a dowry is inadequate, dowry payments fall behind, or a new demand to the bride or the bride’s parents is not fulfilled. Bride burning will often result in the wife’s death. In 1986, the Indian government added ‘dowry deaths’ under penal code 304-B, where a bride, within 7 years of her marriage is killed and it is shown that soon before her death, she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband, or any relative of her husband, or in connection with any demand for dowry, such death shall be called ‘dowry death’ and such husband or relative shall be deemed to have caused her death. The National Crime Records statistics show that in 1994 there were 4,935 dowry deaths and 25,946 cases of dowry harassment, while in 2005, eleven years after the signing of CEDAW, that number increased to 6,787 dowry murders and 58,319 incidents of dowry harassment (National Crime Records Bureau: Ministry of Home Affairs, 2005). As of 2008, there were 31,950 pending cases of dowry deaths, 117 cases withdrawn, 1,948 convicted, and 3,876 acquitted or discharged[3] (National Crime Records Bureau: Ministry of Home Affairs, 2008). The trend for dowry harassment and dowry deaths are on the rise, therefore there is no evidence that the ratification of CEDAW has helped reduce this violent act against women.


Female Foeticide - Female foeticide is where female foetuses are selectively aborted after prenatal sex determination, thus avoiding the birth of girls. Sabu Mathew George v. Union of India[4]  In this case, a writ petition was filed by a public- spirited person for getting directions for the implementation of The Preconception and Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994. It was contended by him that Ministry of Communication and Information Technology with the help of its agencies shall block all websites which were advertising and promoting sex selection techniques by way of including them in their search results. The Court after considering the question of access of information with regard to sex determination gave direction for auto blocking the results of the same. This was a judgment which highlighted the issue of preferring boy over girl and it was a big step to abolish the problem of female infanticide.

 Human Trafficking – Sex Slaves Human trafficking and/or sex slave is defined as: the procurement, recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, legally or illegally, within or across borders, by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of giving or receiving payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for monetary gain or otherwise (India Development Gateway, 2011). In India, more than 1.2 million children are caught up in human trafficking as child prostitutes[5]. Many girls are tricked into leaving their homes with the promise of a well-paid job, some are abducted, and others sold by their families or their husband. With the enormous amount of children caught up in trafficking in India, the number of reported cases for 2007 and 2010 are very high. Statistically, these numbers show that CEDAW has not reduced this violent act against women.


Few Other important Judgments.

Air India v. Nargesh Meerza[6] (1981)

In this case, certain discriminatory rules made by Air India were under the scanner of Supreme Court. The rules formulated by Air India were that an Air hostess would retire on attaining the age of 35 years, or on marriage if marriage is contracted within the first four years of service or on the first pregnancy of the Air Hostess, whichever was earlier. The Court held the rules as unconstitutional and struck them down. It was held that the rules were arbitrary in nature and in violation of Article 14 of the Constitution. It was further held that excessive power was being delegated in the hands of the Managing director and till the time a uniform police was taken up the age of retirement of all air hostess would be .

Vishakha v State of Rajasthan[7]  The case was about sexual harassment at work place, the court took notice of the issue and agreed there was a indeed a void which needed to be filled. The court for the first time invoked the International Covenants to which India was party and signatory. It specifically relied on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, 1979, to adjudicate the instant petition. The court held that there was a need to provide a safe environment to women which was free from sexual harassment and as such it made several guidelines for the implementation by the employers and the government.

 Indian Young Lawyer’s Association v. The State of Karnataka,[8]   In this case, the question before Supreme Court was regarding the entry of women from the age of 10 to 50 inside the Lord Ayappa temple at Sabrimala, Kerala. It was held by the court that the exclusionary practice at Sabrimala was violating the rights of the women since it imposed restriction on their freedom and as such the Rule which placed a restriction on their entry was violative of their right to Worship.


Ministry of Defence v. Babita Punia & Ors.[9]

 Recently, on 17th Feb, 2020 India's top court ruled that all women army officers are now eligible for permanent commissions, allowing them to be in commanding roles. The ruling means that all women officers will now be on par with men when it comes to promotions, ranks, benefits and pensions. The Supreme Court rejected the government's plea to overturn the Delhi high court's order on the same matter. The ruling has been hailed as a "great leap" towards equality in the army


The Indian constitution was adopted on November 26, 1949; two years after India became a sovereign nation. Article 14 of the Indian constitution, Equality Before Law, states, “the State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India” (Ministry of Law & Justice, n.d.). Article 15 Prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth and further states. From a national level, in 1992, India established the National Commission for Women, which is the national mediator for women. In 1997 India established a parliamentary committee on the empowerment of women, and in January 2001, India announced its commitment to the empowerment of women through the launching of a new National Policy on Women’s Empowerment. According to Amnesty International, however, “these policies should be more than just further rhetoric and should firmly address ongoing problems of non-implementation and/or discriminatory implementation of safeguards and impunity for perpetrators of violence against women” Summit 1999





Violence against women is maintained in India, also, because: the reality of the situation on the ground for women and members of vulnerable groups continues to be extremely harsh despite the Constitutional, legislative and administrative framework in place in India . The Government has undertaken various measures, through law, policies and programmes in the last 7-8 years to address gender inequality and to eliminate discrimination against women and girl children. Many laws and programmes are still being reviewed to repeal the discriminatory provisions. There are significant improvements on various indicators, which have been discussed at length, in the above paragraphs. With the general poverty level reducing to 26 per cent and the marked increase in female literacy level, slight improvement in sex ratio and the entry of women into decision-making bodies, the inequalities that exist between men and women have reduced. However gender discrimination continues to be a daunting challenge and the Government will continue to pursue all measures, in a concerted manner, to eliminate discrimination against women and to translate the dejure rights into defacto enjoyment of rights and equal results. The Government commits to pursue the National Policy on Empowerment of Women, 2001 and the Plan of Action that is being adopted to give effect to this policy, strengthen gender budgeting and the Women Component Plan and adopt planning strategies that enhance socio-economic gains for women, which in turn would lead to empowerment of women.



·       Constitution Of India, 1950

·       Universal declaration on Human rights 1948

·       CEDAW, 1979

·       Anne Hellum , Women's Human Rights: CEDAW in International, Regional and National Law Cambridge University Press, 2013





[2] (1997) 6 SCC 241

[3] (National Crime Records Bureau: Ministry of Home Affairs, 2008)


 [5] Source:- (Cable News Network, 2009)

[6] 1981 SCC(4) 335

[7] Supra Note 2


[9]  Civil  Appeal No 9367-9369 of 2011

Strikes and Lockouts in Labour Laws.(Industrial Disputes Act)



The right to strike by workers is a well-recognised weapon available to them to settle their differences with the management and force the management to accept their demands. In our day-to-day lives also, we often see news regarding worker unions resorting to strikes so that their demands about their working conditions, for example, wages, benefits, holidays etc, are accepted by their employer.

Lockout is the antithesis of strike. Strike is a weapon in the hands of the labour to force the management to accept their demands. Similarly, lockout is a weapon in the hands of the management to coerce the labour to come down in their demands relating to the conditions of employment. As in the case of a strike so also in the case of a lockout, there is no severance of the relationship of employer and employee.

Section 2(l) of the ID Act defines lock-out as follows:

“Lock-out means the temporary closing of a place of employment, or the suspension of work, or the refusal by an employer to continue to employ any number of persons employed by him.”

This definition has the following three ingredients of a lockout:

Temporary closing of a place of employment; or

suspension of work, or

refusal to continue to employee any number of persons employed by the employer.


Prohibition of Strikes and Lockouts in Public Utilities


Section 22 of the Act deals with the prohibition of Strikes and lockouts in industries carrying public utility service. The Strikes and lockouts in public utility services are not absolutely prohibited but certain conditions are to be fulfilled by the workmen before resorting to strike or by the employers before resorting to a lockout. The intention of the legislature in enacting the section was to provide sufficient safeguards in matters of public utility services, otherwise it would result in great inconvenience to the general public and the society.

Strike in a public utility can take place only when 6 weeks notice has been served and 14 days have expired after serving the notice. According to Section 22(3), a notice of strike (within 6 weeks before striking) is not necessary when there is already a lock-out in existence in the public utility concerned.

Further, the employee should not go on strike before the expiry of the date of the strike during the pendency of any conciliation proceedings before a conciliation officer and seven days after the conclusion of such proceedings. Any strike commenced in contravention of these provisions would be illegal.

Section 22 (2) lays down similar conditions which an employer must fulfil before resorting to lock-out. It provides that,

“No employer carrying on any public utility service shall lockout any of his workmen-

·        without giving them notice of lockout as hereinafter provided, within 6 weeks before locking-out; or

·       within 14 days of giving such notice; or

·       before the expiry of the date of Lock-out specified in any such notice as aforesaid; or

·       during the pendency of any conciliation proceedings before a conciliation officer and seven days after the conclusion of such proceedings.”


Section 22 (3) provides that no notice of lockout is necessary where there is already in existence a strike in the public utility service concerned. Further, the employer shall send intimation of lockout or strike on the day on which it is declared, to such authority as may be specified by the appropriate Government either generally or for a particular area or for a particular class of public utility services.

In Ramnagar Cane and Sugar Co. Ltd. v. Jatin Chakravarty[1] it was held that during the pendency of conciliation proceedings between a public utility concern and one of its unions, it attracts the provisions of Section 22(1)(d) to the strike declared by another unit of the same concern and makes the same strike illegal.

General Prohibition of Strikes and Lockouts

The prohibition of Strikes and lockouts contained in Section 23 is general in nature which applies to both public utility as well as to non-public utility establishments. The object of these provisions is to ensure a peaceful atmosphere to enable a conciliation or adjudication or arbitration proceeding to go on smoothly. It may be noted that conciliation proceeding before conciliation officer is no bar to a strike or Lock-out under this section.

In Chemical and Fibres of India Ltd. v. D.G. Bhoir[2] it was held that pendency of a dispute between an individual workman as such and the employer does not attract the provisions of Section 23.

In Workmen v. Motor Industries Co. Ltd[3] it was held that there is a difference between a strike envisaged by Section 23(1) in respect of matter covered by a settlement envisaged by Section 29. If the strike is in the matter not covered by the settlement, it is not an  illegal strike under Section 24 read with Section 23(3).


Illegal strikes and Lockouts

Section 24 provides that a strike or Lock-out in contravention of Section 22 and Section 23 is illegal. In Chandramalai Estate v. Workmen[4] it was held that an illegal strike cannot be half legitimate. The Supreme Court held that the Industrial Tribunal cannot come to the conclusion that a strike was half justified and half unjustified. The award of payment of fifty per cent of the employments for strike period was set aside.

In Management of Charukulam Tea Estate (P) Ltd. v. Workmen[5], it was held that workmen were entitled to wages for the strike period as their strike was not unjustified. It was further held in this case that the pendency of conciliation proceedings before the conciliation officer, as distinct from the board, does not render the strike illegal.

Lock-out and closure


A lock-out is different from discontinuance of business. Lock-out does not mean closing down of a business. It only means the closing down of the place of business. It means the suspension of work, not a discontinuance of the carrying on of the business. It means the refusal by an employer to continue to employ the persons employed by him and not the refusal by an employer to carry on any longer his business. Causes which underlie lock-out are different from those of closure. In case of closure there is no question of laying-off workers. The workers are discharged. It is, as pointed out by the Supreme Court an incontrovertible proposition that a closure of a business if it is bona fide and not a mere pretence, is well within the power of an employer making it impossible for an employee to characterise such closure as mala fide. In order that one could speak of “closure”, it should be complete in the sense that there is no work remaining to be done after the termination of the employment of the workmen.However, it need not be, and rarely is, all of a sudden and a matter of an instant, it can be and often is, in stages and spread over some time.


In a situation where the parties are at variance whether the employers have imposed a lock-out or have closed the establishment, it is necessary to find out what was the intention of the employer at the time when it resorted to lock-out or claims to have closed down the industrial undertaking. Lock-out is generally an employer’s response to some direct action taken by the workmen. Closure may be on account of various reasons which may have necessitated closing down of the industrial undertaking. The essence of lock-out is the refusal of the employer to continue to employ the workmen even though the business activity is not closed down nor intended to be closed down. On the other hand, closure implies closing of industrial activity as a consequence of which workmen are rendered jobless. While examining whether the employer has imposed a lock-out or has closed the industrial undertaking, it is not necessary to approach the matter from the angle that closure has to be irrevocable, final and permanent and that lock-out is necessarily temporary or for a period. Change of circumstances may encourage an employer to revive the industrial activity which was intended to be closed.


The duration of closure may be a significant fact to determine the intention and bona fides of an employer at the time of closure but is not decisive of the matter. Therefore, the correct approach ought to be that when it is claimed that the employer is not guilty of imposing a lock-out but has closed the industrial activity, the Industrial Court must, keeping in view all the relevant circumstances at the time of closure, decide and determine whether the closure was a bona fide one or was a device or a pretence to determine the services of the workmen. Answer to this question would permit the Industrial Court to come to a conclusion one way or the other 


Guiding factors in considering claim for wages


The position as regards the effect on the amount of wages to be awarded for the period of lock-out or strike has been tersely stated in India Marine Service Pvt Ltd[6] “In a case where a strike is unjustified and is followed by a lock-out which has, because of its long duration, become unjustified, it would not be a proper course for an industrial tribunal to direct payment of the whole of the wages for the period of the lock-out. “ … … that in a case where the strike is unjustified and the lock-  out is justified the workmen would not be entitled to any wages at all. Similarly, where the strike is justified and the lock-out is unjustified the workmen would be entitled to the entire wages for the period of strike and lock-out. Where, however, a strike is unjustified and is followed by a lock-out which becomes unjustified a case for apportionment of blame arises.”

It has been ruled that “if the strike is illegal, wages during the period will ordinarily be negatived unless considerate circumstances constrained a different course. Likewise, if the lock-out is illegal full wages for the closure period shall have to be “forked out”,”unless it is proved by the employer that an illegal lock-out was the result of such misdemeanour and misconduct of workmen as left no option to him but to declare a lock-out.


That would disentitle them to wages for the period of lock-out.

In between the two situations lies a grey area of twilight law. It arises when a strike is illegal and the sequel of a lock-out legal. In such a situation the Tribunal has to view the whole course of developments and not stop at examining the initial legitimacy. If one side or the other behaves unreasonably or the over-all interests of good industrial relations warrant, it would be proper exercise of judicious discretion if the Tribunal gives a direction regarding wages for the strike period so as to mete out justice, fair play and pragmatic wisdom.


Even if a lock-out is not justified if the workmen are also blameworthy and it is their conduct which brings about the lock-out, then there should be an apportionment of the blame between the management and the workmen. Similarly, even if a strike is illegal and the lock-out that follows becomes a legal defensive

measure, the management cannot behave unreasonably merely because the lock-out is born lawfully. If by subsequent conduct the Unions have shown readiness to resume work peacefully, refusal to re-start the industry is not right and the initial legitimacy of the lock-out loses its virtue by this blemished sequel.


From the decided cases three guiding factors emerge:


(1) a lock-out has to be judged in the light of the finding

about the object of the strike. The object may be to circumvent settlement in an amicable manner, even though the management is ready for such settlement. It is a well accepted principle that the workmen cannot resort to strike without first exhausting available avenues for achievement of their object. The conduct of workmen before going on strike may render it unjustified which may lead to a justified lock-out as it happened in the case of India Marine Service Pvt Ltd[7]


 (2) a lock-out has to be judged in the context of the strike being legal,

illegal, justified, or unjustified and


 (3) a lock-out has to be judged in the light of the behaviour of the workmen

whether lock-out was a result of use of force or violence on the part of workmen or whether lock-out was a result of a reasonable apprehension of danger to its property or fear of safety of lives of loyal workmen and

officers of the company.


 Principle of apportionment of blame


It follows from the above discussion that in dealing with the claim for wages during the period of lock-out or strike, it is incumbent on the Tribunal to apply its mind to the question of apportionment of blame between two

 and to its effect on the amount of wages to be awarded for the period of lock-out or strike—an aspect which has to be decided on the facts and circumstances of each case.

 When both parties are blameworthy


When the workmen and the management are equally to be blamed, the Tribunal normally awards half the wages. An examination of the decided cases reveals that when the blame for the situation is apportioned roughly half and half between the management and the workmen, the workmen are given half of the wages for

the period involved.


In Northern Dooars Tea Co Ltd[8], the court taking into consideration the conduct of the workmen at the relevant time, awarded half the wages for the period of lock-out after the period of total strike as the grievance felt by the workmen which led to the token strike could not be dismissed as wholly unsubstantial or unjustified. In

Management, M/s. Pradip Lamp Works[9],on a consideration of all the facts and circumstances of the case, the court directed that half the wages should be paid to the workmen for the period of lock-out.


In Statesman Ltd,[10] on the facts, the court upheld an award to pay half the wages to the employees as both the parties were at fault and responsible for delay in withdrawing the lock-out and the award crystalised a discretionary conclusion reached after a survey of all facts and animated by a sense of broad justice.


Lock-out when justified or unjustified


1.    Lock-out”, as a result of “stay-in-strike”[11]

The workmen staged a stay-in-strike. They came to join their duties on the next working day, but they were asked to sign a good conduct bond before resuming their duties. The workmen refused to sign the bond raising objection to the use of the words “at the instigation of others.” The management refused to give work and the question arose whether such refusal was justified or it amounted to an unfair labour practice.

On the facts of the case it was held that the lock-out was unjustified. However, in view of the financial difficulty of the company, the workmen who were kept out were awarded 50% of their respective basic wages and

dearness allowance subject to the maximum limit of 15 days’ basic wages and dearness allowance in each half




2.    Lock-out as a result of a concerted action of the workmen[12]

Workmen assembled near the office during the recess period, stayed away from their work, continued to stay there till late in the evening shouting slogans, so much so that the members of the office staff and some workers who wanted to return home after the working hours were prevented from leaving the factory premises.

It was held to be a strike and, therefore, the lock-out from the following day was regarded as justified.

No notice is necessary for lock-out if a strike is illegal.



3.    Lock-out as a result of go-slow policy[13]

The workers resorted to go-slow tactics and as a result of go-slow tactics the lock-out declared by the management was justified. The workers are not entitled to any wages for the period of lock-out. Workmen were held not entitled to wages for the period of lock-out as the lock-out was necessitated by the conduct of the workmen. Go-slow is one of the most pernicious practices and has always been considered a serious type of misconduct.



4.    Lockout as a result of refusal to do additional work[14]

Refusal by workmen to do additional work consequent upon introduction of a rationalization scheme by the employer would not amount to a strike where the employer had no right in law to ask them to do such additional work.

The closure of the mill by the employers, therefore, amounted to an illegal “lock-out” and hence the workmen were held entitled to wages for the period in question.






India in the present context of economic development programmes cannot afford the unqualified right to the workers to strike or to the employer to lock-out. Compulsory arbitration as an alternative of collective bargaining has come to stay. The adoption of compulsory arbitration does not, however, necessarily mean denial of the right to strike or stifling of trade union movement. If the benefits of legislation, settlements and awards are to reach the individual worker, not only the trade union movement has to be encouraged and its outlook broadened but the laws have also be suitably tailored. The existing legislation and Judicial pronouncements lack breadth of vision. Indeed, the statutory definitions of strike and lock-out have been rendered worse by a system of interpretation which is devoid of policy-oriented approach and which lays undue stress on semantics. The discussion of the concepts and definition of strike has sought to establish
that legalistic consideration has frequently weighed with the court in interpreting and expounding the said statutory definition: Emphasis on literal interpretation resulted in ignoring the ordinarily understood connotation of the term strike and in encouraging undesirable activity.

[1] (1960 AIR 1012 SC = 1961 (1) LLJ 244)

[2]  1975 AIR 1660, 1975 SCR 415

[3] 1969 AIR 1280, 1970 SCR (1) 304

[4] AIR 1960 SC 902, 1960 (1) FLR 104, (1960) IILLJ 243 SC, 1960 3 SCR 451

[5] ibid

[6] India Marine Service Pvt Ltd v Their Workmen, (1963) 3 SCR 575 [LNIND 1962 SC 260] : AIR 1963 SC 528 [LNIND

1962 SC 260] : (1963) I LLJ 122.

[7] ibid

[8] Northern Dooars Tea Co Ltd v Workmen of Demdima Tea Estate, (1964) I LLJ 436 (SC): AIR 1967 SC 560 [LNIND

1963 SC 184] .

[9] Management of Pradip Lamp Works v Pradip Lamp Workers Karamcharya Sangh, (1970) 2 SCR 880 [LNIND 1969 SC 406] : (1969) 3 SCC 124 [LNIND 1969 SC 406]

[10] Statesman Ltd v Their Workmen, (1976) 3 SCR 228 [LNIND 1976 SC 5] : AIR 1976 SC 758 [LNIND 1976 SC 5] :

(1976) I LLJ 484 (SC) : (1976) 2 SCC 223 [LNIND 1976 SC 5] .

[11] India Machinery Mazdoor Union v India Machinery Co Ltd, (1956) II LLJ 408.

[12] Pipraichi Sugar Mills v Workmen, (1956) FJR 413 (LA T).

[13] Bharat Sugar Mills Ltd v Jai Singh, (1962) 3 SCR 684 [LNIND 1961 SC 306] : (1961) 2 LLJ 644 [LNIND 1961 SC 306]

[14] India Marine Service Pvt Ltd v Their Workmen, (1963) 3 SCR 575 [LNIND 1962 SC 260] : AIR 1963 SC 528 [LNIND 1962 SC 260] : (1963) I LLJ 122.

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