Kerala Headload Workers Act not applicable to Domestic Purposes

Kerala Head Workers Act

The Kerala Headload Workers Act, 1978 is intended to regulate the employment of headload workers in the State of Kerala.

It makes provision for their welfare, for the settlement of disputes in respect of their employment or non-employment and for matters connected therewith.

The law is not applicable for domestic purposes

The Kerala Headload Workers Act is not applicable to engagement of a person by an individual for domestic purposes.

On the other hand it is applicable exclusively to engagement or employment of persons directly or through a contractor in or for an establishment, whether for wages or not, for loading or unloading or carrying on head or person or in a trolly any article or articles in or from or to a vehicle or any place in such establishment, and includes any person not employed by any employer or contractor but engaged in the loading or unloading or carrying on head or person or in a trolly any article or articles for wages.

What does domestic purpose mean?

The activities, which are excluded from the purview of the act, by defining the term domestic purpose in the act are, engagement of a person for loading and unloading of:-

  1. any article for construction of a building for his own residential purpose;
  2. any article in connection with marriage or other family function in his residence or in places where marriage or other family functions are conducted
  3. any house-hold articles including furniture in connection with the shifting of a dwelling house of a person;
  4. any article or articles for carrying out any agricultural operations in his land not exceeding two hectares;
  5. any articles exclusively for his personal use, and not for any industrial or commercial purposes

Those who violate the law is liable for punishment

Any headload worker who contravenes any of the provisions of the Code of Conduct shall be liable for disciplinary action, in the manner as specified in the Scheme which may involve the imposition of a major penalty.

Settlement of disputes

Where a dispute which is connected with the employment or non-employment or the terms of employment or with the conditions of work, of any headload worker exists or is apprehended, the Assistant Labour Officer, having jurisdiction may hold conciliation conferences for the purpose of bringing about a settlement of the dispute. If  such a settlement is not arrived at, he may send a report of the dispute to the Conciliation Officer.

Punishment under the act

Whoever contravenes or makes default in complying with any of the provisions of this act or a scheme or of any rule made under this Act shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both, if no other penalty is elsewhere provided under this act for such contravention or noncompliance.

All matter of indiscipline among the part of worker or employers shall be investigated by an officer authorised by the Chairman.

Court needs previous sanction to take cognizance

No court shall take cognizance of any offence punishable under this Act, except on complaint made by or with the previous sanction in writing of, the Government or an officer authorized by the Government in that behalf.  Similarly no court inferior to that of a Judicial Magistrate of the First Class shall try any offence punishable under the Act.

No civil court shall entertain any suit or other proceedings to set aside or modify any order or decision passed by any authority or officer under this act in respect of any of the matters falling within its or his scope.

Establishments to which the act is applicable

The establishments and the precincts where the act is applicable are: –

  1. Iron and steel markets or shops.
  2. Cloth and cotton markets or shops.
  3. Grocery markets or shops.
  4. Railway yards and good sheds.
  5. Establishments employing workers for loading or unloading of goods and other operations incidental and connected thereto.
  6. Vegetable markets including onions and potatoes markets).
  7. Establishments employing workers for loading, unloading and carrying of
  8. food grains and such other work incidental and connected thereto.
  9. Bus stands boat jetties, landing places of country crafts.
  10. Forest supply and sale coupes, timber and firewood depots.
  11. Quarries.
  12. Markets (including fish and meat markets) and factories employing workers, which are not covered by any other entries in this Schedule.

The five-judge bench of the Kerala High Court in its judgement in Theresa Jose Vs. Sub Inspector of Police, decided that if principally, the workers are employed to carry on the work other than loading and unloading, and the loading and unloading work is only occasional, they do not come within the definition of Headload workers.

That means the act and rules do not apply to those establishments where the loading and unloading work is not a prominent activity but an incidental activity.

Additional reading

  1. The Kerala Headload Workers Act, 1978
  2. Theresa Jose Vs. Sub Inspector of Police