Karnataka High Court. (File Photo: IANS). Image Source: IANS News

Bengaluru, June 13 : Questioned to justify the 'public emergency' under which the order was issued, the Karnataka government withdrew its notification that made factories work extra hours to increase production lost during the extended Covid-induced lockdown, an official said on Saturday.

"We had informed the Karnataka High Court on Friday that the notification had been withdrawn, as normal operations resumed in factories after lockdown norms were relaxed for manufacturing and processing units across the state," an official of the state labour department told IANS here.

In a surprise move, the state government on May 22 exempted all factories from the provisions of the labour laws pertaining to working hours on weekly and daily basis for three months till August 21.

The order allowed factories to make their employees work for 10 hours a day and 60 hours in a week against 8 hours a day or 48 hours a week as per Section 5 of the Factories Act, 1948.

Petitioner H. Maruthi, an activist representing factory and construction workers, challenged the order in the high court, contending that it was illegal and in violation of the labour laws in force in the state.

Several trade unions and organisations affiliated to the Left parties also opposed the order and accused the state government of exploiting the adverse situation arising out of corona virus outbreak to force the labour work for more at the cost of their health and welfare.

The high court told the state government that the order would be stayed if it did not withdraw it forthwith.

The high court told state labour deputy secretary Sandhya Nayak that the prolonged lockdown was not a public emergency as per the section 5 of the Factories Act, which allows the state to exempt any factory from its provions.

The All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) also termed the order illegal as it would amount to bonded labour.

"The exemption is only for 3 months to increase factory production and make up for the loss of 40 mandays since March 25 when the lockdown was enforced and extended till May 3 for the industrial sector to contain the coronavirus pandemic," the official recalled.

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