The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court has ruled that each windmill is a factory. What more?

To put up a windmill in Tamil Nadu, it is also necessary to obtain the permission of the local panchayat body, the Court held.

Manufacturing process

In the dispute between Mr S. Muppidathi and several others, including Global Wind Infrastructure and Services Pvt Ltd, the Court held that, “a windmill generates electricity and is therefore, a factory involved in a manufacturing process.”

Global Wind Infrastructure had cited a letter from the Secretary, Energy Department, Government of Tamil Nadu, saying that a windmill is not a factory, but Mr Justice V. Ramasubramanian said that a letter from a Secretary “cannot be taken as an authoritative pronouncement of the law on the point.”

The Judge said that windmill could not be treated as “machinery.”

“The fact that hundreds of windmills have been established without any permission from any of the local bodies is also no ground to interpret the provisions of law differently.

Therefore, the applicability of Section 160 of the Tamil Nadu Panchayats Act, 1994, to a windmill, cannot be doubted,” the Judge has said.

Owners' reaction

Reacting to the judgement, many windmill owners in Tamil Nadu rued that they would have to deal with the panchayats to secure permission for setting up a windmill in the State.

“The key element of this judgement is that once windmill is considered as factory, all the labour and factory laws applicable to any factory as defined under Factories Act 1951 would automatically apply. Hence compliance under various Labour and Industrial laws would have to be adhered to by the principal employer or any of his agents and/ contractors,” said Mr R. Sundaresh, Joint Managing Director, ReGen Powertech Ltd, a manufacturer of wind turbines.

“Excepting involvement of more administrative work it does not impact in any substantial manner as most of the labour and industrial laws are anyway followed by corporates,” Mr Sundaresh said.