Gujarat Mazdoor Sabha V. State of Gujarat

Gujarat Mazdoor Sabha V. State of Gujarat

Case no. : Writ Petition (Civil) No. 708 of 2020

Quorum : Justices DY Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and KM Joseph

The Phrase Of This Court As ‘Sentinel On The Qui Vive’ May Have Become Weather-Beaten, Judges Must Constantly Remind Themselves Of Its Value: Supreme Court

The phrase of this court as the sentinel on the qui vive may have become weather-beaten…, but judges must constantly remind themselves of its value through their tenures, if the call of the constitutional conscience is to retain meaning. Justice Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud remarked in a judgment he delivered on Thursday.

The Judge observed thus in his judgment which quashed the notification issued by the Gujarat Labour and Employment Department granting exemptions to all factories in Gujarat from provisions of the Factories Act, 1948 relating to daily working hours, weekly working hours, intervals for rest and spread overs of adult workers as well as from payment of overtime wages at double rates viz. Section 59.  It was held that the notifications, in denying humane working conditions and overtime wages provided by law, are an affront to the workers’ right to life and right against forced labour that is secured by Articles 21 and 23 of the Constitution.

The observation about sentinel on the qui vive reads thus:

“The Constitution allows for economic experiments. Judicial review is justifiably held off in matters of policy, particularly economic policy. But the Directive Principles of State Policy cannot be reduced to oblivion by a sleight of interpretation. To a worker who has faced the brunt of the pandemic and is currently laboring in a workplace without the luxury of physical distancing, economic dignity based on the rights available under the statute is the least that this Court can ensure them… Justice Patanjali Sastry immortalized that phrase of this court as the sentinel on the qui vive in our jurisprudence by recognizing it in State of Madras vs. V G Row. The phrase may have become weather-beaten in articles, seminars and now, in the profusion of webinars, amidst the changing times. Familiar as the phrase sounds, judges must constantly remind themselves of its value through their tenures, if the call of the constitutional conscience is to retain meaning”

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