As 2017 draws to a close, the Indian Government’s initiatives on ‘Make in India’ seems to have made significant progress in one industry. The labour law reforms undertaken by the Government in the last three years have been summarized recently in the Parliament. A Harvard Law School study speaks on preparation for entry of foreign law firms in India.

‘Make in India’ Effective for Electronics – The Centre’s efforts to promote local manufacturing through the ‘Make in India’ programme seem to be reaping dividends with the domestic production of electronics, one of the key reasons behind foreign currency spends after oil, moving ahead of imports for the first time in 2016-17. Domestic electronics production in 2016-17 stood at $49.5 billion, higher than the near $43 billion spent on imports. The government has taken a number of steps to boost manufacturing of electronics in the country, particularly of smartphones, appliances, set-top boxes and televisions. A majority of imports in many of these areas are coming from neighbouring China, something India is now trying to counter through fiscal incentives and other measures. The local benefits were reinforced recently when the customs duty on import of a variety of products was raised earlier this month. This was for products such as mobile phones, set-top boxes, microwave ovens, and LED lamps.

Labour Law Reforms – The Ministry of Labour & Employment has taken a number of legislative initiatives in labour laws during the last 3 years. Some of the important initiatives are as follows:-

  • Amendment to the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965 by which eligibility limit for payment of bonus enhanced from Rs. 10,000/- to Rs. 21,000/- per month and the Calculation Ceiling from Rs. 3500/- to Rs. 7000/- or the minimum wages.
  • Payment of Wages (Amendment) Act, 2017 enabling payment of wages to employees by cash or cheque or crediting it to their bank account.
  • Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016 provides for complete ban on employment of children below 14 years in any occupation or process.
  • Maternity Benefit Amendment Act, 2017, increases the paid maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks.
  • The Employee Compensation (Amendment) Act, seeks to rationalize penalties and strengthen the rights of the workers under the Act.
  • Ministry has notified  “Ease of Compliance to maintain Registers under various Labour Laws Rules, 2017” on 21st February 2017 which has in effect replaced the 56 Registers/Forms under 9 Central Labour Laws and Rules made there under in to 5 common Registers/Forms. The number of forms provided under 3 Central Acts/Rules has been reduced from existing 36 to 12. The register can also be maintained in digitised manner. This will save efforts, costs and lessen the compliance burden by various establishments.
  • A Model Shops and Establishments (RE&CS) Bill, 2016 has been circulated to all States/UTs for adoption with appropriate modification. The said Bill inter alia provides for freedom to operate an Establishment for 365 days in a year without any restriction on opening/closing time and enables employment of women during night shifts if adequate safety provisions exist.

White Paper on Data Protection framework for India – The Committee of Experts appointed by the Government had prepared a white paper on various issues relating to data protection in India and had solicited public comments by December 31, 2017 on what shape a data protection law must take, as reported by Asia Law Portal last month. The last date for submission of public comments has now been extended to January 31, 2018.

Preparation for entry of foreign law firms – “The quality of Indian law firms and Indian lawyers at the top of the market is as good as anywhere in the world. That is an important point to emphasise,” said David Wilkins, professor of law at Harvard Law School. Wilkins was making the point that India’s legal sector is ready for the entry of foreign law firms, in a phased manner. A move that has been contemplated by a succession of Indian governments over the years and continues to be an imminent possibility. Indian law firms will have to fight their foreign counterparts harder over talent than clients, Wilkins added. The Harvard Law School – Center on the Legal Profession, of which Wilkins is the faculty director, has recently completed a six-year-long study on the impact of globalisation on India’s legal profession. The book tracks the rise of India’s corporate legal sector and its impact on the economy and society.

Posted by Sourish Mohan Mitra

Sourish Mohan Mitra is an India-qualified lawyer from Symbiosis Law School, Pune and currently working as an in-house counsel with a global research firm in Delhi, India; views expressed are personal; he can be reached at sourish24x7@gmail.com; Twitter: @sourish247

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