Jammu & Kashmir Employment Code- A step towards strong, independent & Separate Labour Judiciary

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BY: Umar Firdous Ahmad

Two years back Budget speech of the former finance minister of J&K state on the floor of J&K legislative assembly spoke about slew of legislative & institutional initiatives to be introduced in the state in the ensuing financial year. One such legislative initiative was the introduction of J&K Employment code. There are nearly twenty four labour legislations currently in vogue in the state of J&K & to do away with the multiple labours laws & their poor implementation & resultant  inadequate impact on the ground, J&K government  constituted an expert group for bringing in all the twenty four labour legislations into a single code, thereby ushering in the real ease of doing business in the state, besides addressing the aspirations of all those labour class people who are associated with this code directly. This code envisaged was unique in the sense that J&K state would have been  the first state in India to take lead in matters of labour reforms & ushering in the era of free, fair, separate, independent, & strong Labour judiciary if implemented on the ground. The employment code would be first of its kind where matters regarding to deduction in wages, compensation, conditions of work, leaves safety, social security, employees association, and employer employee relationship would be dealt in one single code.

On having a cursory look into this employment coode, all matters pertaining to labour class have been dealt in detail & at the same time strong adjucation machinery in the form labour tribunal has also been framed for speedy justice delivery system. The adjucation machinery shall have all powers, jurisdiction, & authority conferred by the appropriate government in exercising of its powers while dealing with the matters that shall be brought into its notice. The tribunal will have a full time chairperson, maximum of twenty full time judicial members, but not less than ten. The chairperson shall be at liberty to bring in any person having enough knowledge on the subject or in any case before it for assisting the tribunal in settlement of that case. In case of non-acceptance of judgment of the tribunal, the appellant or respondent both will be at liberty to file an appeal before the Labour appellate tribunal for adjucation of disputes in appeal from labour tribunal. The Labour appellate tribunal will function as first appellant authority & the people to be appointed must has or have been a judge of a high court. The unique feature of this employment code would be that all decisions by the Labour tribunal shall be taken within a period of six months & if the difference of opinion would take place between members, the chairperson would be free to hear & decide & in case of difference of opinion the chairperson would be independent to sent it to labour appellate tribunal for deciding. The J&K employment code has been drafted in such a way that no civil court shall have a jurisdiction to settle dispute or entertain any question relating to any claim for granting any relief or compensation which may be adjucated upon by the tribunal. In addition to this every labour tribunal or appellant tribunal shall have the powers as vested by CPC, 1908 when trying a suit in following matters viz; enforcing attendance, compelling authorities for production of documents, issuing commission for examining witnesses etc. the labour tribunal or its appellant tribunal will also function as civil court while dealing with such matters in terms of CPC.

The need of the hour is J&K government shall set in implementation &  finally bring in this legislation on the ground, so that the poor, needy, hardworking, vulnerable to accidents labour class of our society shall be benefitted from this unique code, further it would be out of place to mention here that department of labour is highly understaffed given the nature of work it has been enshrined to assume, however the government of time should rise to occasion & put in fast track mechanism in order to fill the vacant posts & at the same time should seriously think to increase the manpower through creation of more posts in this departments. The department should also be provided mobility & other infrastructure needed to enhance its capacity for increasing its pace of doing work.

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