| Between Exclusion and Exception : Making of Labour Law in Colonial and Post Colonial India

Course Information

  • 2022-23
  • 5-Year B.A., LL.B. (Hons.)
  • V
  • Jul 2022
  • Elective Course

This elective stand alone course will introduce students to some of the major historiographical debates and contexts which have informed the formation of laws governing work and work relationships in India. Instead of tracing these debates into the colonial past, we will reverse the chronology and begin with an analysis of some of the present day legislative interventions which have contributed to the informalization of labour. We will then trace the lineages of this phenomena to the post colonial and colonial period and systematically understand its linkages to the international and imperial debates on labour conditions, laws on employment in the global context, labour unrest, transformations in production and labour regimes and ideologies of freedom and unfreedom. Labour law thus becomes the prism through which to understand the circulation of legal precepts from Britain to India, administrative practices, ideologies, economic transformations, conflicts and the disenfranchisement and exclusion of workers, women and subalterns from processes of law making. While the course charts the manner in which legal exceptions, violence and cultural particularities was built into the architecture of labour laws, we also look for methodological clues in the judicial archive to extract materials on the non elites strategic use of law. By taking cues from some of the recent interventions by legal scholars, the course also presents snapshots of ‘law in action’ across different historical periods and the broad repertoire of strategies and legal genres employed by the labouring and subaltern groups against the violation of contracts, infringement of property and customary rights and also during strikes, desertions and other forms of collective mobilizations. Here we are interested in understanding how a cross section of the work force when threatened with corporeal violence, property suits, evictions and prohibitions on practicing their occupations engaged with law and how we can recover workers voices from elite and state centric narratives of labour law transformations.


Vidhya Raveendranathan

Visiting Assistant Professor | AY 2022-23