Spread the love

This article is written by Chalamalasetti Lakshmi Naga Sai of 4th Semester of ICFAI law school, Hyderabad


India has integrated a minimum wage for the employees of some Scheduled Employment listed in the Act after ratifying the International Convention. The “Minimum Wages Act of 1948” was created to safeguard the fundamental rights of workers who fall within one of the Act’s scheduled categories. The Act was implemented with the intention of giving workers in certain employment the minimum wage for the work they performed in order for them to receive what they are due and to protect them from starvation death. It also aims to lessen exploitation of workers. However, the Constitutionality of the Act was contested by employers across the nation on the grounds that the said Act violates “Article 14”, and “Article 19(1)(g)” of “constitution of India”. However, the Supreme Court ruled in a landmark decision that failure to pay the minimum wage results in forced work, which is against Article 23 of the Indian Constitution. The Court held that the restrictions placed on the freedom of contract by the determination of salaries are appropriate and acceptable under “Article 19(6)” of the Constitution of India and are also imposed in the best interests of people in general as well as with a view to promoting the “DPSP” as contemplated in “Article 43” of the “Constitution of India”. This was in regard to the violation of “Article 19(1)(g)” in the case of Bijay Cotton Mills Ltd. vs. The State of Ajmer[1]. While the Court found that the Act complies with both the letter and the spirit of “Article 14” and only applies to the scheduled employees mentioned in the Act, it was determined that the Act does not violate this Article since it appropriately classifies the workers on the basis of discernible differentia.[2]


The minimum wages act,1948, Article 14, Article 19(1)(g), Indian Constitution.


In India, which had already attained independence, “The Minimum Wages Act of 1948” was put into effect. The British created exploitation-based labour rules. In every region of the nation, wages were low and inconsistent. There were no “Minimum Wages” at that period, which is unfortunate for the worker segment. It arrived to provide equality and justice to the working class. Because they currently have little negotiating power, Indian workers with a high unemployment rate are vulnerable to exploitation by employers. Workers in this situation do not receive enough of their expected wages to cover their basic requirements.[3]

Due to this situation, “The Minimum Wages Act” was passed by the legislature and parliament in 1948 as a means of limiting employer excess. This Act’s main goal was to close the wage gap that existed between various employment sectors. This Act establishes the minimum pay rates for a number of occupations. This means that the wage for the work performed cannot be less than the amount recommended by the Act. The purpose of the Act’s enactment is to give the federal government and state governments the authority to set minimum wages in particular occupations in order to stop the capitalist class from exploiting the working class, as it frequently does. According to the Act, the Government is required to take action to establish minimum salary levels and to review them every five years. Additionally, it has the authority to name advisory panels that fairly represent both businesses and employees.[4]


In India, the minimum salaries set for workers are so low that they cannot even cover two meals a day, let alone the costs of housing, food, and other necessities. Due to two factors, the goal of a worker’s minimum pay should be its primary focus:

Social goal: By ensuring that workers have a minimal standard of living, the minimum wage is crucial for ending poverty.

Economic goal: The minimum wage should be set at a level that encourages employees to give their all at work, boosting the nation’s economy and raising people’s standards of life.[5]

Indian employees, trade unions, and labour groups must actively support minimum wage legislation. Additionally, it would take honesty on the part of the labour departments in each state to set the minimum pay rate in accordance with moral and humanitarian considerations in order to guarantee the livelihood of workers in unorganised sectors. The fundamental causes of the exploitation of workers in the unorganised industries are also ignorance and illiteracy. By educating the workforce on the legal requirements governing the minimum wage rate and the benefits to which they are entitled, trade unions and NGOs can assist. [6]

The Indian Legislature passed “The Minimum Wages Act in 1948” to address issues connected to paying workers the minimum wage so that they can meet their basic necessities and maintain a respectable level of living. The Act also ensures that all labourers receive a safe and sufficient living wage, as well as a guarantee that an employee makes enough money to support his family. The Act gives the federal government and state governments the authority to set the minimum wage. In order to adjust minimum wages for changes in the pricing of essential commodities, “The Minimum Wages Act of 1948” also established a provision for minimum pay revision.[7]

By creating advisory committees to settle any disputes between the employer and employee over the payment of minimum wage to the employees, the Act aims to improve the protection of employees’ rights. The Act also names a Commissioner for Workmen’s Compensation or another Central Government official with experience as a judge to serve as a Labour Commissioner for any region and hear cases involving the failure to pay employees the minimum wage or the payment of less than the minimum wage. The Act also contains provisions for punishing any employer who violates any rule or order established under the Act by failing to pay their employees the required minimum wage.[8]

Because it attempts to extend the concept of social justice to workers in scheduled employment and also provides them with the rates of minimum wages set by law, it can be claimed that the passage of this Act was exceedingly important. Additionally, it defends the rights and interests of employees and stops them from being unfairly exploited by their employers.[9]


“The Minimum Wage Act” applies to jobs with more than 1000 employees. The action helps to remedy

  • Minimum hourly pay rates.
  • a time rate that is assured Hourly Rate and
  • Lowest piece rate.

Basic costs such as expenses for living or wage are the minimum rates of pay under this statute. This law also establishes the number of hours, weekly holidays, overtime pay, etc. A minimum wage violation under this act carries a maximum six-month jail sentence. The National Commission on Labour called this statute a turning point in the development of labour law. There are three categories of earnings covered by this law:

  • Minimum Salary
  • Paid fairly
  • a living wages

The term “minimum wage” is not formally defined under this act. The minimum wage is an entry-level salary that covers basic needs and contributes to the costs of healthcare and educational programmes. Fair wage, on the other hand, is consistently higher than the minimum wage. The legitimate demands of an employee’s family are taken into account in this.[10]

The fair pay and the minimum wage are never below a liveable wage. Not only does it assist with necessities, but it also offers financial pleasures like social requirements, insurance, educational resources, etc. A liveable wage helps in both good and bad times and is not just restricted to the necessities of life. The lowest amount that must be paid in any case is the minimum wage, which is lower than the living wage.  It was ruled in Crown Aluminium Works v. Their Workmen that it is exceedingly challenging to distinguish between these three wages. Depending on the state of the economy, they change.[11]


In numerous situations, the constitutionality of this Act was contested in court. The judiciary, however, was crucial in determining that the Act was constitutionally valid and that it safeguards the rights of the employees by providing them with access to things like food, shelter, clothing, education, and medical care. The judiciary further declared that refusal to pay at least the legal minimum constitutes forced labour.[12]

Not a violation of the constitution’s article 19

“The Minimum Wages Act of 1948” was initially contested as being unconstitutional in the 1954 case of Bijay Cotton Mills Ltd. v. The State of Ajmer[13]. In this instance, there was a labour dispute between the employer and the employees over raising salaries. The company claimed in court that the Act’s provisions are unconstitutional because they impose unjustified restrictions on the employer, preventing him from restarting his trade or business until he is prepared to pay the workers’ minimum wages.[14] The employees’ rights are also constrained because they are not permitted to work in any profession unless the conditions are predetermined by them and their employers. “Article 19(1)(g)” of the “Indian Constitution”, which guarantees freedom of trade and enterprise, is thereby violated by the Act. However, the Supreme Court of India ruled that “Article 19” of the “Indian Constitution” permits the Act’s provisions, and that it has also been imposed for the benefit of the general public in accordance with “Article 43” of the Constitution, which embodies the “Directive Principles of State Policy”.

Thus, it can be claimed that some Act requirements may make it difficult for employers to operate or launch a business, but since they are implemented to safeguard the public’s overall interest, the Act cannot be rejected or declared irrational for such reasons. In the same spirit, the Bombay High Court ruled in Bhikusa Yamasa Kshatriya v. Sangamner Akola Bidi Kamgar Union[15],  that the establishment of committees and advisory boards under “the Minimum Wages Act, 1948”, did not violate the statutory provisions of the prescribed legislature. Additionally, it was noted that “Section 3(3)(iv)” of the Act does not violate “Article 19(1)” of the “Indian Constitution” after carefully reviewing the Act.[16]


Equal protection under the law is guaranteed under “Article 14” of the Constitution, which the Act does not violate. According to India’s Union Labour and Employment Minister Shri Mallikarjuna Kharage, the variation in the minimum wages of workers in different states is caused by the various socio-economic factors, including the cost of living, the price of goods, the ability to pay workers, and productivity. All of these factors have an impact on the wage rate paid to the workers in a particular state. In the case of N.M. Wadia Charitable Hospital v. State of Maharashtra[17], the Bombay High Court determined that because the Constitution and national labour laws allow separate minimum wage rates to be set in various regions, doing so is not discriminatory and does not violate the Constitution.[18]


In Bijay Cotton Mills Ltd v., the State of Ajmer[19], it was noted that it is the responsibility of the state to ensure that all workers receive living wages and working conditions, upholding the constitutional legitimacy of this act.  The aforementioned Act’s Section 3 gives the relevant government the authority to set minimum wage levels. Additionally, it gives the government the authority to examine pay no more frequently than every five years. For fixing procedures, the government may appoint as many committees or subcommittees as necessary.  The act’s Section 12 mandates that every employee get the minimum wage from their employer.[20]

The Minimum Wages Act of 1948 was passed to protect the rights and interests of employees who are employed in one of the Act’s specified scheduled classes of work. The Act aims to offer workers fair employment opportunities and sufficient compensation to sustain a respectable quality of living. The Act’s provisions, which include establishing working hours in a typical working day and revising salaries every five years, show how it protects workers from unfair exploitation. The Act also creates advisory committees and boards that employees may approach to request remedy in circumstances involving the nonpayment or delayed payment of wages by their employers. The Act also gives the inspectors sufficient authority to oversee the wellbeing of the workers. As a result, this Act is essential for meeting the basic needs of employees in a scheduled category of employment, for providing them with adequate wages to support themselves, and for advancing the Directive Principles of State Policy outlined in Article 43 of the Indian Constitution.

[1] 1955 AIR 33, 1955 SCR (1) 752

[2] Constitutional validity of Minimum Wages Act,1948, available at: Constitutional Validity Of Minimum Wages Act, 1948 by Kumar Harsh: SSRN (last visited on June 14,2023)

[3] “Object, Constitutional validity and Salient features of minimum Wages Act,1948”, available at: Object, Constitutional Validity and Salient features of Minimum Wages Act, 1948 (ourlegalworld.com) (last visited on June 15,2023.

[4] Ibid

[5] Minimum Wages Act,1948, available at: Minimum Wages Act, 1948 – iPleaders (last visited on June 14,2023)

[6] Ibid

[7] Ibid

[8] Ibid

[9] Id at 2

[10] Constitutional validity of the minimum Wages Act,1948, available at: Constitutional Validity of the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 ⋆ LAWYERS GYAN (last visited on June 16,2023)

[11] Ibid

[12] Id at 2

[13] Id at 2

[14] Id at 2

[15] (1959) 61 BOMLR 764, (1959) IILLJ 578 Bom

[16] Id at 2

[17] (1993) IIILLJ 536 Bom

[18] Id at 2

[19] Id at 2

[20] Id at 5


Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *