Caselaws on the Industrial Dispute Act

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Author Pranjali Mehta briefs the reader on the various industrial disputes and their legal implications.

Introduction

The Industrial Disputes Act of 1947 covers the whole country and governs Indian labour law in terms of trade unions. It took effect on April 1, 1947. The Industrial Disputes Act’s goal is to ensure industrial peace and harmony by establishing machinery and procedures for investigating and resolving industrial disputes through negotiations. The Act also specifies the procedures for compensating employees who have been laid off or retrenched as a result of a termination, layoff, or retrenchment, as well as the process for obtaining prior approval from the appropriate government for laying off or retrenching workers or shutting down industrial enterprises, and unfair labour practises on the part of an employer, a trade union, or workers. Various tribunals have issued awards governing wages and other labour relations in multiple sectors under this Act. This Act establishes a framework for delegating rule-making authority to the state and federal governments.

Various Case Laws 

Industry

By recasting Section 2 of the Industrial Disputes Act of 1982, the definition of the industry has been redefined clause (j).

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Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board vs A Rajappa 

Facts – Employees of the Bangalore water supply and sewerage board and the board’s management were at odds in this situation. The petitioners argued before the Labour Court that because it was not an industry, the Labour Court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case. The Labour Court dismissed the objection, and the Management, feeling aggrieved, filed a Writ Petition in the High Court of Karnataka. The objection was also dismissed by the High Court, prompting the Management to file an appeal with the Supreme Court.3

Judgment – According to the ruling, to qualify as an industry, the following requirements must be met4:

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→ When there is a systematic activity that is carried out in cooperation between the employer and employee for the production and distribution of goods and services that satisfy all human wants and wishes;

→ The focus is on the nature of operation with particular emphasis on the employer-employee relationship;

→ Whether the company is a trade or business, it does not cease to be one based on its philanthropic nature;

→ If the organisation is a trade or business, it would not cease to be one based on its philanthropic nature.

Employer

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With an industry carried on by or under the authority of any department of the federal government or state governments, the term “employer” is specified in Section 2(g). 

Heavy Engineering Mazdoor Union vs the State of Bihar

The Supreme Court clarified that the federal or state government is the employer in industries run directly by an agency under its control and jurisdiction, or by a department run through the intermediary of an agent. In this regard, Rule 2(g) of the Industrial Disputes (Central) Rules, 1957 suggests that for an industry carried on by or under the jurisdiction of a department of the central government or a state government, the officer in charge of the industrial establishment shall be the ’employer’ in respect of that establishment, and with an industry involving railways. The officers listed in Rule 2(g)(ii)(a)(f) and (c) shall be ’employers’ in any activity carried on by or under the authority of a department of the central government.6

Individual Dispute vs Industrial Dispute

A dispute between an employer and a worker does not qualify as an industrial dispute under Section 2(k) unless it is supported by a union or a significant number of workers.

Central Provinces Transport Services Ltd, Nagpur vs Raghunath Gopal Patwardhan

Facts – The Respondent collaborated with the Appellant Company in this case. The Appellants claimed that the Respondent stole some goods and that during the domestic investigation conducted by the Appellant Company, he was found guilty and dismissed on the grounds of misconduct and gross negligence. The Respondent applied for reinstatement with the Industrial Court, but the appellant argued that the case was not maintainable because it was an individual dispute rather than an industrial dispute.

Judgment – A conflict between an employer and a single employee, according to the Supreme Court, is not an industrial dispute. If the cause is taken up by a union or a group of workers, it may turn into an industrial dispute. The language of section 2 (k) of the Industrial Disputes Act is broad enough to include a dispute between an employer and a single employee, according to the court.

Workmen

A ‘workman,’ according to Section 2(s) of the Industrial Disputes Act of 1947, is any person who has entered into or works under a contract with an employer, whether the contract is for manual labour, clerical work, or anything else, and whether the contract is express or implied, oral or written, and whether it is a contract of service or apprenticeship or a contract directly to perform any work or labour, whether the contract is for manual labour, clerical work, or anything else.

Arkal Govind Rajrao vs Ciba Geigy Of India Ltd. 

Facts – In this case, the Appellant was employed by the Respondent Company as a stenographer and accountant. His services were eventually terminated after he was promoted to assistant. He lodged a grievance, which was then referred to the Labour Court for resolution. The complainant was not a worker, according to the Labour Court, since he was doing administrative and supervisory work in addition to clerical work, and therefore he was working in an officer cadre.

Judgment – While hearing the Appellant’s appeal, the Supreme Court determined that the Appellant was a workman as specified in Section 2(s) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. It was also decided that an individual would not be considered a worker if he had such supervisory responsibilities.

→ These are some of the case laws on the definitions mentioned under Section 2 of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. Since there are so many conflicts that cannot be completely avoided, they must be resolved from time to time using a formula that reconciles the interests of both parties. The Industrial Disputes Act establishes a framework for resolving labour disputes by a variety of methods, including settlement between parties’ works committees, conciliation, inquiry, and voluntary arbitration.


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