Bring consistency in interpretation of MHA guidelines, say legal experts

The consolidated revised guidelines by the (MHA) on removing certain restrictions on industrial activities have stirred legal teams in many corporate houses into action. As businesses seek clarifications on the guidelines, one issue that confounds many is the use of the term “continuous process” for industrial establishments that are allowed to operate from April 20.

“It appears there is no statutory definition or meaning ascribed to this expression ‘continuous process’ in any of the labour laws, particularly the Factories Act, 1948, the Workmen’s Compensation Act, and the MSME Act,” said Mukesh Butani, managing partner, BMR Legal.

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Experts pointed out the guidelines should have been clearly worded to avoid divergence in its interpretation among various state departments. A lot would depend on how state governments treat the guidelines and what sort of additional orders they issue, lawyers said.

For instance, several state governments had been exploring the idea of allowing liquor sales, but the central government notification banned the sale of liquor. “We have asked our clients (a liquor company) make representation to their concerned state government, which should seek clarifications from the central government for allowing liquor sales, while maintaining social distancing,” said Vaibhav Kakkar, partner, L&L Partners. Lawyers said a lot more clarity is required on which industries are allowed to operate.

Experts said the central government should clarify that the permission for starting operations is applicable not only to standalone activities of production units, but also to the entire supply chain.

Butani said it may be expedient to issue further clarification so that inconsistent interpretations in different states and regions are avoided. “State governments can use the central government notification as guidance,” he added.

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