Indian History





History of Factory Legislation in India


The first time the public attention was drawn towards a report in 1873, ‘Administration of the Bombay Cotton Department wherein the writer Major Moore described the factory conditions in Bombay with reference to long working hours, conditions of women and children of six years working from sunrise to sunset with a small interval of half an hour and only two holidays in a month.

Based on this report the Secretary of State wrote to the Bombay Government in 1875 to appoint a Commission to determine whether legislation was necessary for that subject. As a result, the Commission was appointed by a majority of seven against two, not in favor of the legislation.

About this time Miss Carpenter of Bristol, founder of the National Indian Association, had visited India and made inquiries about the Indian factory conditions.

The exploitation of child labor and the unrestricted employment of women were among the worst features of earlier factories in India. Maj. Moore, Mr. Ballard, and Mr. Alexander Redgrave were’ some of the earliest to urge the necessity for factory legislation in India on the lines of the British Factories Act to check these evils. Almost simultaneously, the Lancashire Cotton interests, apprehensive at the phenomenal growth of the Indian Cotton Industry, also started an agitation for achieving the same object, their aim being directed towards neutralizing the advantages the Indian capitalists had with regard to cheap labor. Such extraneous considerations resulted in the merits of legislation being obscured and a counter agitation was, therefore, started by the Indian capitalists against any form of legislative enactment. A commission set up in 1875 by the Bombay Government at the instance of the Secretary of State recommended prohibition of employment of children under 8 years and a 12 hours day for adults.

The Factories Act, 1881:


Some leaders like S.S. Bengalee fought for the labor’s cause and were mainly responsible for getting a bill referred to the Indian Legislature in 1879. An organized body of workers also put in a strong plea before the legislature for redress of their grievances. Finally, the first Indian Factories Act, 1881 (15th of 1881) was enacted. The most important provisions therein were:


  • Prohibition of employment of children under 7 years and their double employment on the same day.
  • The working day of 9 hours for children.
  • Four holidays in a month for children.
  • Intervals of rest.
  • Fencing of dangerous parts of machinery.
  • Reporting of accidents.
  • The Act was made applicable to a factory with mechanical power and workers 100 or more.
  • District Officers were expected to enforce the Act without any addition to their staff.
  • The clauses related to the work of women and holidays for them were dropped owing to ‘the strong criticism by the employers.


The Act, though inadequate from almost all points to the abuses, nevertheless was significant in that it secured recognition of the principle that the Government would interfere in the industrial relations to protect the weak and oppressed.

The Factories Act 1891 :


The inadequacy of the 1881 Act led to continued agitation by workers, under the leadership of Bengali for its amendment. Meade King in 1882, after investigating labor conditions on behalf of the Bombay Government, made recommendations for amending it. Later on, a commission sat in 1884 and considered the question in detail. During the sitting of the commission, the labor movement was increased, the workers met in a conference and. placed their viewpoints before the Commission. Bengali and Lokhande’ took a prominent part in the Conference.

The agitation for protecting labor gathered momentum following the publication in 1886-S7 in England of the report of Mr. Jones who had studied the factory conditions in Bombay during the period 1883-86. In 1890, a Factory Labour Commission was appointed by the Indian Government to again review the position and make suitable recommendations. Finally, the Indian Factories Act, 1891 (No. 11 of 1891) was passed and came into force from 1-1-1892. Its main provisions were:


  • Registration of a factory on the employment of 50 or more workers.
  • Local Government authorized to notify concerns employing even 20 workers
  • Non-employment of children under 9 years.
  • Seven hour day for children between 9 & 14 years.
  • Eleven hour day for women with a 1.5-hour interval.
  • Restrictions on the employment of women and children from 8 p.m. to 8 am.
  • Weekly holidays for all workers.
  • Rest interval of 0.5 hours.
  • Provincial Governments authorized to make rules regarding sanitation and comfort.


The Factories Act 1911 :


The introduction of electric lights in the factories in 1895 and the devastating effects of the plague at about the same time had its repercussions on the availability of labor to meet the increasing capacity for production. Evasions of the Act were widespread. Besides, the ginning factories which were the worst offenders had not been brought within the purview of the 1891 Act, as factories not working for more than 4 months in a year had been excluded.

The safety provisions in the 1891 Act also proved inadequate. This was brought to light by a number of tragic fires in the cotton presses between 1901 and 1905, resulting in over 50 deaths. The government of India took a serious view and introduced in 1905 a Bill for further amending the earlier Act and this was circulated for public opinion.

At the direction of the Secretary of State, the India Government appointed in 1906 a Textile Factories Labour Committee with Frier Smith as Chairman and again in 1907 the second Factory Labour Commission with Hon. Morrison as Chairman to investigate factory working conditions. A bill embodying the recommendations of these bodies was introduced and enacted the Factories Act 1911 (12 of 1911). It came into force from 1-7-1912. Its chief provisions were:

Limiting the hours of work of male adults and children to 12 and 6 respectively.
Children were required to produce certificates as to ‘age and physical fitness.
Appointment of full-time inspectors for the enforcement of the Act and inspection and certification of factories.
Provisions for health and safety of workers.
Seasonal factories were included.
Power of local government for exemptions.
Prevention and punishment for breaches.

The Factories Act 1922 :


The inauguration of the ILO in 1919 after the First World War (1914-1918) lead to the adoption of Conventions on working hours, minimum age, night work of women and young persons, etc. The growth of the labor movement and the stirring of public interest on labor questions in India as a result of a number of strikes led to the ratification in 1921 of most of the ILO Conventions. A 60 hour week conceded and night work for women and children under 14 was prohibited. In 1922 the Factories Act was amended to include within its scope :


  • Industrial undertakings using mechanical power and employing 20 or more persons.
  • The minimum and maximum age of children were raised to 12 and 15.
  • A six hours working day for children, a half-hour rest interval after 4 hours work and prohibition of employment of a child in two factories on the same day.
  • Working hours II per day and 60 per week.
  • Control of artificial humidification.
  • No woman and children employment between 7 p.m. and 5-30 am.
  • Compulsory rest intervals and weekly holidays.
  • Measures for health and safety of .operatives.
  • Power of Government to notify factories employing workers more than.
  • Laying down principles to grant the exemption.

Minor amendments for the administrative purpose were made in 1923, 1926 and 1931. By these amendments, the penalty was inflicted on parents or guardians for permitting their children to work in two factories on the same day and the Governments were given the power to make rules for providing precautions against fire inside factories. General provisions remained the same until the major amendment in 1934.


The Factories Act 1934 :


Following serious labor unrest in the country, a Royal Commission was set up in 1929 with Mr. John Henry Whitley as President, to review existing law in detail and make suitable recommendations after conducting an inquiry into the labor’s living conditions. This resulted in the Act of 1934 (25 of 1934) which came in to force from 1-1-1935. Its main provisions were:


  • Adequate inspection and strict observance of the Act.
  • Applicable to factories employing 20 or more workers and using power.
  • Provisions for seasonal factories working for 180 days or less.
  • Working hours 10 per day and 54 per week for all adults in perennial factories, 10 hours a day and 56 hours a week for continuous work and II hours a day and 60 hours a week for seasonal factories.
  • Daily hours for children (between ages 12 & 15) reduced to 5.
  • The new category of adolescents (between the age of 15 to 17) included.
  • Certificate of fitness from certifying surgeons for children and adolescents.
  • Spread over 13 hours for adults and 7.5 hours for children.
  • No women or children employment between 7 p.m. and 6 am.
  • Overtime wages at the rate of 1.25 times the ordinary rate for work exceeding 60 hours a week.
  • A weekly holiday on Sunday and no consecutive work for more than 10 days without a holiday.
  • Provisions for health and safety amplified. Provisions for cleanliness, ventilation, lighting, no overcrowding, drinking water, sanitary facility, washing facility, fencing for dangerous machinery, a restroom for more than 150 workers, a creche for more than 50 women for their children below 6 years and first aid box were made.
  • Penalty up to Rs. 500 and the enhanced penalty for repeated breach were provided.


The Factories Act 1948 (The present Act) :


The above Act was subsequently amended in 1935, 1936, 1937, 1940, 1941, 1944, 1945, 1946 and 1947 before it’s a major amendment in 1948.

During the Interim Congress Regime, a five year plan was drawn up to ameliorate the labor conditions in India and also to revise the Factories Act of 1934 on the line of the UK Factories Act 1937 and latest ILO conventions in the matters of safety, health, welfare, working hours, industrial hygiene, medical examination of young persons and submission of plans of factory buildings.

The 1942 Conference was important as being the first attempt at collaboration between Government, employers, and workers in matters pertaining to Labour. Arising therefrom, a Plenary Tripartite Conference and a Standing Labour Committee had been set up to advise Government on Labour matters and this resulted in smoothening the way for the introduction of legislative measures including the draft Bill.

The Factories Bill was introduced in the Constituent Assembly on 30-1-1948 passed by it on 28-8-1948, received the assent of the Governor-General of India on 23-9-1948 and came into force from 1-4-1949.

Statement of Objects and Reasons :


It was stated in this part that the Factories Act 1934 revealed a number of defects and weaknesses and the provisions for safety, health and welfare were found inadequate and unsatisfactory. The large mass of workers was not covered by the Act and in view of the large and growing industrial activities in the country, radical overhauling of the Factories law was essentially called for and cannot be delayed.

It was also mentioned that “the present Act (of 1934) leaves important and complex points to the discretion of Inspectors placing a heavy responsibility on them. In view of the specialized and hazardous nature of the processes employed in the factories, it is too much to expect Inspectors to possess expert knowledge of all these matters. The detailed provisions contained in the Bill will go a long way in lightening their burden”.

The Labour Minister explained in the Legislature on 30-1-1948 an admirable summary of the New Law and pointed out the broad changes that were brought about.

The Factories (Amendment) Act 1954 :

The Government of India ratified the ILO Conventions No. 89 & 90 prohibiting employment of women and young persons during the night in factories. Therefore sections 66, 70 and 71 of the Factories Act 1948 were to be amended. Simultaneously opportunity was taken to amend other provisions also. Therefore the Factories (Amendment) Act, 1954 (25th of 1954) came into force with the following major amendments:


  • Type composing for printing was included in the definition of the manufacturing process.
  • Amendment of Section 4.
  • Prohibition of women and young persons from cleaning, lubricating and machinery in motion.
  • Encasement of machines.
  • Amendment of section 29 to prescribe clearly the safety requirements of lifting machines.
  • Allowing to work 6 hours at a stretch without any interval when the shift is of 6 hours.
  • Exempting overtime work in case a shift worker does not turn up in time.
  • Amendment of sections 66, 70 & 71 in conformity with the ILO Convention No. 89 & 90 prohibiting employment of women and Chilean during the night in factories.
  • Revision of Chapter-VIII relating to leave with wages to fix 240 days attendance, to raise the limit of carried forward leaves, etc.
  • The recasting of section 93 to clarify the responsibility of the owner and occupier. A few minor changes were also incorporated.


The Factories (Amendment) Act 1976 :

After 1948 and 1954, industrial growth was continued and the need of Safety Officer was felt to advise management in the matters of industrial safety and health. Due to so many judgements on the definition of ‘worker’ and tendency to not include ‘contract labour’ therein in want of proof of ‘Master-Servant relationship’ and feeling need of changes in many other sections including penal section, the Factories (Amendment) Act 1976 (94 of 1976) was enacted and brought into force from 26-10—1976.

Its main amendments were:


  • Changes in the definitions of the manufacturing process, worker, factory and occupier. Contract labor was included in ‘worker.
  • Approval of the plan and prior permission for the site.
  • Alterations in the provisions ‘for inspector, certifying surgeons, cleanliness, disposal of waste and effluents, fencing of machinery, work on or near machinery in motion, striking gear and devices for cutting off power, pressure plant, floors, stairs and means of access, precautions against dangerous fumes, precautions in case of fire, specifications of defective parts, safety of building and machinery, first aid appliances, creches, spread over, overtime wages, register of child workers, leave with wages, dangerous operation, notice of accidents, penalty for offences, determination of occupier in certain cases, limitation of prosecutions etc.
  • In above alterations the posts of Additional, Joint and Deputy Chief Inspectors of Factories were added, more conditions for cleanliness, fire escape, first-aid, etc. were imposed, women strength for creche was reduced to 30, time limit of rules u/s 64 was extended to 5 years, more particulars of attendance in register and no permission to work without that was required by sections 62 (1-A) and 73 (1-A), carry forwarding of ‘refused leave with wages’, training and research institutes were included in section 86 for exemption purpose, the words ‘manufacturing process or operation’ were substituted in section 87 and requiring more welfare facilities including protective equipment and clothing under that section, time limit of one month for inquiry into fatal accident was fixed u/s 88(2), fine limit raised to Rs. 2000 from Rs. 500 u/s 92, and for the enhanced penalty to Rs. 5000 from Rs. 1000 u/s 94 and provision of minimum fine in case of the fatal accident and serious bodily injury (Rs. 1000 for death and Rs. 500 for serious bodily injury, these figures were doubled in case of enhanced penalty) was also made.
  • New additions were made by section 36 A regarding use of portable electric light, section 40 A for maintenance of the building, 40 B for Safety Officers, 62(1-A) and 73(1-A) for more particulars in muster roll, 88 A for notice of dangerous occurrences and section 91 A for safety and health surveys.

  • In new section 40-A power to give order to carry out measures suggested by Inspector for maintenance of buildings was given and u/s 40 B Safety Officers were required for factories employing workers 1000 or more, and the State Government was empowered to notify factories for this requirement and to prescribe rules for the duties, qualifications, and conditions of service of Safety Officers. These rules were prescribed in 1983.


The Factories (Amendment) Act 1987:

The Bhopal accident created worldwide safety awareness and moved the governments to provide more stringent requirements for the health and safety of workers and the public. Therefore the Central and State Governments made necessary amendments in their Acts and Rules. A new Act ‘the Environment (Protection) Act 1986’ was enacted and the Factories (Amendment) Act 1987 was also enacted on 23-5-1987 providing a new chapter IV A on hazardous processes, many other requirements, and severe penalties and imprisonment for breaches.

The Factories (Amendment) Bill, 2014

The Factories (Amendment) Bill, 2016

In its Statement of Objects and Reasons, it was stated that –


“There has been substantial modernization and innovation in the industrial field. Several chemical industries have come up which deal with hazardous and toxic substances. This has brought problems of industrial safety and occupational health hazards. It is, therefore, necessary to amend the Act to provide especially for the safeguards against the use and handling of hazardous substances and laying down emergency standards and measures. The amendments also include procedures for sitting in hazardous industries for the safety of the general public. Provision has been made for workers’ participation in safety management, and making the punishment stricter.”

The Factories (Amendment) Bill, 1986 (Bill No. 141 of 1986) was introduced in Lok Sabha on 2-12-1986 and received the assent of the President on 23-5-1987 as the Factories (Amendment) Act 1987 (No. 20 of 1987), and published in the Gazette of India on 25-5-1987. By the Notification dated 29-10-1987, Ministry of Labour, Govt. of India, the Act came into force from 1-12-1987 except sections 7 B, 41 F and the 2nd Schedule which came into force from 1-6-1988.

Its major provisions are:

Amendment of Section 2 adding the definitions of the competent person, hazardous process and also clarifying the occupier for a firm, a company, and government factories.
Insertions of section 7 A and 7 B for general duties of the occupier, manufacturers etc., section 87 A giving power to prohibit employment on account of serious hazard, section 96 A for penalty for breaches of section 41 B, 41 C and 41 H, section 104 A for proving limits of what is practicable etc., section 106 A for jurisdiction of a court, section III A for right of workers, section II 8 A for restriction on disclosure of information and insertion of new Schedules I & II for the list of hazardous industries and permissible levels of certain chemicals.
Insertion of a new Chapter IV-A regarding hazardous processes adding section 41 A for constitution of Site Appraisal Committee, section 41 B for compulsory disclosure of information including safety policy and on-site emergency plan and disaster control measures, section 41 C for medical examination, health, records & qualified supervisors, section 41 D for Government’s power to appoint inquiry committee, section 41 E for emergency standards, section 41 F for permissible limits of toxic exposures, section 41 G for worker’s participation in safety management and section 41 H for right of workers to warn about imminent danger.
Amendments of sections 4, 9 (raising the powers of inspectors), 13, 16, 18, 19, 23, 25, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 36 A, 64, 70, 71, 80, 87, 89, 90, 91 A, 92, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 115 and 119. The remarkable amendment is the heavy increase in penalties extending up to Rs. 2 lakhs and Rs. 5000 daily fine, imprisonment up to 10 years and a minimum fine of Rs 5000 in case of serious injuries and Rs. 25000 in case of death.
Substitutions of sections 36 and 38.
The omission of section 100 for the nomination of the occupier.
Therefore, now, looking to the passing of the above Act of 1987, the factory managers and occupiers must run their factories strictly according to the law to avoid dire consequences.


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