Kolkata: The West Bengal government has passed amendments proposed by the centre to tighten laws for the settlement of industrial disputes. The government raised the penalty for failure to comply with decisions of labour courts and industrial tribunals, expecting it to work as a deterrent.
In June 2015, the state took the first step towards revamping the archaic dispute settlement laws by introducing the Industrial Disputes (West Bengal) Amendment Bill. Its aim was to expedite dispute settlement in a state which has a notorious track record of stand-offs spinning out of control and leading to sickness and closure.
With Tuesday’s amendment to the law, the penalty for failure to implement awards of industrial tribunals has been raised to Rs10,000 (from Rs1,000 proposed previously) and imprisonment of up to six months. Other fines under the law have also been increased to Rs10,000 from Rs1,000.
In the event of continuing failure in compliance, a further fine of Rs2,000 a day will be imposed on such persons responsible for the breach.
The increase in penalties is intended to act as a deterrent, said Abhirup Sarkar, a professor of economics at Kolkata’s Indian Statistical Institute. It may not still be able to ensure full compliance, but with penalties getting more substantial, people are expected to take decisions of industrial tribunals more seriously, he added.
Moloy Ghatak, state’s labour minister said in assembly on Tuesday that this amendment will also ensure appointment of more competent judges, and thus help speed up dispute settlement. The suggestions made by the president have been accepted, he added.
The key problem is it takes too long to settle industrial disputes in West Bengal, said a lawyer, who works closely with the state government. The process is too slow and circuitous, resulting in delayed delivery of justice, this person added, asking not to be identified.
Often, it is seen that verdicts that go in favour of workers are difficult to execute, according to this person. “The idea is to give the amended laws some teeth, which it previously didn’t have," he added.