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The state government has admitted to the Karnataka High Court that a 'state of public emergency' as envisaged under Section 5 of the Factories Act does not exist to warrant the relaxation of provisions under the Act.
The Bench observed the same while hearing a petition challenging the state government's notification dated May 22, by which it had relaxed the provisions of the Factories Act in light of the COVID-19 crisis.
Pertinently, vide this notification, the state government had increased the number of working hours for factory workers from 9 hours to 10 hours per day, and from 48 hours to 60 hours per week.
A Division Bench Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice P S Dinesh Kumar observed that, in its written submissions, the state had submitted that,
"Although it is difficult to locate the present situation with contingencies of Section 5 of the Factories Act (Power to exempt during public emergency), nevertheless, the extraordinary situation warranted such drastic measures in the interest of both the workers and employees."
At this juncture, it was contended that the government notification was passed under Section 65(2) of the Factories Act.
The Bench, in turn, noted that,
"However, there is no indication from the impugned order that the power exercised is under said the provision."
Having made these observations, the Court refrained from passing any interim orders today. However, the Court cautioned that if no decision is taken by Friday, then it would proceed to stay the government order.
The matter has been next posted for hearing on June 12 as the AAG was not present today.
During the previous hearing, AAG Dhyan Chinnappa had informed the Court that internal discussions were in place and that the state may be able to resolve issue.
Earlier, the High Court had issued notice to the state government in a plea challenging the government notification relaxing provisions of the Factories Act, 1948 in Karnataka until August 21, 2020.