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Industrial Disputes Act, 1947

The main purpose of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 is to ensure fair terms between employers and employees, workmen and workmen as well as workmen and employers.. The objective of the Industrial Disputes Act is to secure industrial peace and harmony by providing machinery and procedure for the investigation and settlement of industrial disputes by negotiations.

Industrial Disputes Act, 1947
An Act to make provision for the investigation and settlement of industrial disputes, and for certain other purposes.
Citation Act No. 14 of 1947, Enacted by Central Legislative Assembly - Date enacted 11 March 1947 - Date assented to 11 March 1947 - Date commenced 1 April 1947 - The Industrial Disputes Act 1947 extends to the whole of India and regulates Indian labour law so far as that concerns trade unions. It came into force April 1, 1947.

Objectives:
The objective of the Industrial Disputes Act is to secure industrial peace and harmony by providing machinery and procedure for the investigation and settlement of industrial disputes by negotiations.

The laws apply only to the organised sector. Chapter V-B, introduced by an amendment in 1976, requires firms employing 300 or more workers to obtain government permission for layoffs, retrenchments and closures. A further amendment in 1982 (which took effect in 1984) expanded its ambit by reducing the threshold to 100 workers.

The Act also lays down:
The provision for payment of compensation to the workman on account of closure or lay off or retrenchment.
The procedure for prior permission of appropriate Government for laying off or retrenching the workers or closing down industrial establishments
Unfair labour practices on part of an employer or a trade union or workers.

Applicability:-
The Industrial Disputes Act extends to whole of India and applies to every industrial establishment carrying on any business, trade, manufacture or distribution of goods and services irrespective of the number of workmen employed therein.

Every person employed in an establishment for hire or reward including contract labour, apprentices and part-time employees to do any manual, clerical, skilled, unskilled, technical, operational or supervisory work, is covered by the Act.

This Act though does not apply to persons mainly in managerial or administrative capacity, persons engaged in a supervisory capacity and drawing > 10,000 p.m or executing managerial functions and persons subject to Army Act, Air Force and Navy Act or those in police service or officer or employee of a prison.

What is the Indian Industrial Dispute Act of 1947?

The Industrial Dispute Act of 1947 has been described as the latest milestone in the industrial development in India. The Act has seen new additions in the past few years. However, the principal objectives of the Industrial Dispute Act of 1947 are:

Objectives of Indian Industrial Dispute Act:

1. To encourage good relations between labor and industries, and provide a medium of settling disputes through adjudicator authorities.
2. To provide a committee for dispute settlement between industry and labor with the right of representation by a registered trade union or by an association of employers.
3. Prevent unauthorized strikes and lockouts.
4. Reach out to labor that has been laid-off, unrightfully dismissed, etc.
5. Provide labor the right to collective bargaining and promote conciliation.

New Indian Industrial Dispute Act Principles:

1. A permanent conciliation committee for the speedy settlement of industrial disputes.
2. Compulsory arbitration in public utility services and enforcement of arbitration awards.
3. Strikes during proceedings of conciliation and arbitration meetings are prohibited.
4. Set aside specific times for conciliation and arbitration meetings.
5. Employers have to be obliged to communicate with labor unions.
6. Mutual consultation has to be set up between industry and labor by the Works Committee.
7. Disputes between labor and industry have to be forwarded to an Industrial Tribunal. If the Industrial tribunal fails to handle the case, the case should be forwarded to the appropriate government.

Introduction
The main purpose of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 is to ensure fair terms between employers and employees, workmen and workmen as well as workmen and employers. It helps not only in preventing disputes between employers and employees but also help in finding the measures to settle such disputes so that the production of the organization is not hampered. In this unit, we are going to discuss the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 and its importance. This unit encompasses the different authorities and their duties in the settlement of disputes. It also discuss about the reference of disputes. Through this unit, you will be able to know about the different award given by the different authorities under the Act. Thus, you will able to understand through this unit, the procedures of settlement of the disputes as well as the duties of different authorities as well as the way of reference of disputes.

Industrial Dispute-Sec. 2 (k)

Industrial Dispute is “any dispute of difference between employers and employers or between employers and workmen; or between workmen and workmen, which is connected with the employment or non-employment or the terms of employment or with the conditions of labour of any person.”

Industrial dispute as defined under Sec. 2(k) exists between-

Parties to the dispute who may be
Employers and workmen
Employers and Employers
Workmen and workmen

a) There should be a factum of dispute not merely a difference of opinion.
b) It has to be espoused by the union in writing at the commencement of the dispute. Subsequent espousal will render the reference invalid. Therefore date when the dispute was espoused is very important.
c) It affects the interests of not merely an individual workman but several workmen as a class who are working in an industrial establishment.
d) The dispute may be in relation to any workman or workmen or any other person in whom they are interested as a body.
CASES :
Chandrakant Tukaram Nikam and others vs. Municipal Corporation of Ahmedabad and another [i]: It was held by the Supreme Court that the Jurisdiction of the Civil Court was impliedly barred in cases of the dismissal or removal from service, The appropriate forum for such relief was one constituted under Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.

Jadhav J. H. vs. Forbes Gobak Ltd.[ii]: In this case, it was held that, a dispute relating to a single workman may be an industrial dispute if either it is espoused by the union or by a number of workmen irrespective of the reason the union espousing the cause of workman was not the majority of the union.

History of The Law of Industrial Disputes

The World War I (1914-1919) brought a new awakening among the working class people who were dominated by the employers regarding the terms and conditions of service and wages. The workers resorted to strikes to fulfill their demands and the employers retaliated by declaring lockouts. During the period 1928-29 the numerous strikes and lock-outs forced the Government to enact the Trade Disputes Act, 1929.

The Trade Dispute Act, 1929 was introduced for the settlement of industrial disputes. This Trade Union Act gave the trade unions a legal status. The main object of the Act was to make provision for the establishment of Courts of Enquiry and Boards of Conciliation with a view to investigating and settling trade disputes.

But, this Act failed to create favorable atmosphere in the industry and settle the disputes. The main defect of the Act was that no provision was has been made to render the proceedings institutable under the Act while restraint had been imposed on the right of strike and lock-out in the public utility services. But, later this defect was overcome by empowering under Rule 81-A, of the Defense of Indian Rules to refer industrial disputes to adjudicator for settlement during the Second World War (1938-1945).

The rule provide speedy remedies for industrial disputes by compulsory reference of disputes to conciliation or adjudication, by making the awards of adjudicators legally binding on the parties, by prohibiting strikes and lock-outs during the pendency of conciliation or arbitration proceeding.

With the termination of the Second World War, Rule 81-A was about to lapse on 1st October, 1946, but it was kept alive by recourse to Government’s Emergency Powers. The main provision was retained in the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.

Authorities Under The Act And Their Duties

The Industrial Dispute Act, 1947 makes provision for the investigation and settlement of disputes that may hamper the peace of the industry. It ensures harmony and cordial relationship between the employers and employees. The Act provides self-contained code to compel the parties to resort to industrial arbitration for the resolution of disputes. It also provides statutory norms besides helping in the maintaining of cordial relation among the employers and employees ,reflecting socio-economic justice.

The act provides for the following authorities for Investigation and Settlement of industrial disputes:
(i) Works Committee
(ii) Conciliation officer
(iii) Boards of Conciliation
(iv) Court of Inquiry
(v) Labour Court
(vi) Labour Tribunals
(vii) National Tribunals

Let us discuss these authorities in detail:

Works Committee (Section 3):

The works committee is a committee consisting of representatives of employers and workmen (section3). The works committee is a forum for explaining the difficulties of all the parties.The main objective of the works committee is to solve the problems arising in the day-to-day working of a concern and to secure industrial harmony. The function of the working committee is to ascertain the grievances of the employees and to arrive at some agreement. The committee is formed by general or special order by the appropriate Government in an industrial establishment in which 100 or more workmen are employed or have been employed on any day in the preceding 12 months. It consists of the representatives of employers and workmen engaged in the establishment.

It shall be the duty of the working committee to promote measures for securing and preserving amity and good relations between the employers and workmen and, to that end, to comment upon matters of their common interest or concern and to endeavour to compose any material difference of opinion in respect of such matters and decision of the works committees are not binding.

Conciliation officer (Section 4):

For promoting and settlement of industrial disputes the appropriate Government may by notification in the official Gazette, appoint such number of conciliation officer as it thinks fit. The main objective of appointing conciliation officer is to create congenial atmosphere within the industry and reconcile the disputes of the workers and the employers. He may be appointed for a specified area or for specified industries in a specified area or for one or more specified industries and either permanently or for a limited period.

The duty of the conciliation officer is not judicial but administrative. He has to hold conciliation proceedings, investigate the disputes and do all such things as he thinks fit for the purpose of inducing the parties to arrive at a fair settlement of the disputes. The conciliation officer is entitled to enter an establishment to which the dispute relates, after reasonable notice and also to call for and inspect any document which he consider relevant. He has to send a report and memorandum of settlement to appropriate Government. The report by the conciliation officer has to be submitted within 14 days of the commencement of the conciliation proceeding or shorter period as may be prescribed by the appropriate Government. The conciliation officer has the power to enter the premises as well can call for and inspect documents.

Boards of Conciliation (Section 5):

The appropriate Government may by notification in the official Gazette, constitute a Board of Conciliation for the settlement of industrial disputes. The Board shall consist of a chairman and 2 or 4 other members in equal numbers representing the parties to the disputes as the appropriate Government thinks fit. The Chairman shall be an independent person. A person is “independent” for the purpose of appointment to a Board, Court or Tribunal if he is uncommitted with the dispute or with any industry directly affected by such dispute.

He may be a shareholder of a company connected with or likely to be affected by such disputes. But in such a case he must disclose to the Government the nature and intent of his share [Section 2(i)]. Where the appropriate Government is of the opinion that any industrial disputes exist in an industry, it may refer by order in writing to the Board of Conciliation for settling industrial disputes.

The Board of Conciliation has to bring about a settlement of the dispute. He has to send a report and memorandum of settlement to appropriate Government. He has to send a full report to the Appropriate Government setting for the steps taken by the Board in case no settlement is arrived at. The Board of Conciliation has to communicate the reasons to the parties if no further reference is made. The Board has to submit its report within 2 months of the date on which the dispute was referred to it within the period what the appropriate Government may think fit. The report of the Board shall be in writing and shall be signed by all the members of the Board.

Court of Inquiry (Section 6):

The appropriate Government may by notification in the official Gazette, constitute a court of inquiry into any matter appearing to be connected with or relevant to settlement of industrial disputes having an independent person or of such independent persons as the appropriate Government may think fit. The court consists of two or more members one of whom shall be appointed by the Chairman. Within a period of 6 months, the court has to send a report thereon to the appropriate Government from the commencement of its any inquiry. This period is not mandatory and it may be extend.

It has the same powers as are vested in a Civil Court under the Code of Civil Procedure 1908, in the following matters-
a. enforcing the attendance of any person and examining him on oath,
b. compelling the production of documents and material objects,
c. issuing commissions for the examination of witnesses,

d. in respect of such other matters as may be prescribed.

The report of the Court must be signed by all the members. A member can submit a note of dissent. The Report together with the dissenting note must be published by the appropriate Government within 30 days from its report. A court of enquiry has no power to improve any settlement upon the parties.

Labour Court (Section 7):

The appropriate Government may by notification in the official Gazette, constitute one or more labour court for adjudication of industrial disputes relating to any matters specified in the Second Schedule. A labour court consists of one person only to be appointed by the appropriate Government.
The main function of the labour court is to hold its proceedings expeditiously and submit its award as the proceeding concludes.
A person shall be presiding officer of a labour court unless—
a. he is or has been, a Judge of the High court,
b. he has for a period of not less than three years, been a District Judge or an Additional District Judge or
c. he has held any judicial office in India for not less than seven years; or
d. he has been the presiding officer of a Labour Court constituted under any provincial Act or State Act for not less than five years.
e. He must be an “ independent “ person and must not have attained the age of 65 years.

Labour Tribunals (Section 7- A):

The appropriate Government may by notification in the official Gazette, constitute one or more Industrial Tribunals for adjudication of industrial disputes. A Tribunal shall consist of one person to be appointed by the appropriate Government. The Appropriate Government may appoint two persons as assessors to advise the Tribunel. The person shall be not qualified unless—
a. he is, a Judge of the High court,
b.. he has for a period of not less than three years, been a District Judge or an Additional District Judge.
c. The appropriate Government may, if it so thinks fit, may appoint two persons as assessors to advise the Tribunal in the proceeding before it.

The functions of the Tribunals are very much like those of a body discharging judicial functions, although it is not a Court. Its power is different from that of a Civil Court. The proceedings before an Industrial Tribunal are quasi-judicial in nature with all the attributes of a Court of Justice. The Government is empowered under Section 7-A of the Act to constitute for a limited time which comes to an end automatically on the expiry of the said period for any particular case. The duties of Industrial Tribunal are identical with the duties of Labour Court, i.e. on reference of any industrial disputes; the Tribunal shall hold its proceedings expeditiously and submit its award to the appropriate Government.

National Tribunals ( Section 7 B)

The Central Government may, by notification in the official Gazette, constitute one or more National Industrial Tribunals for the adjudication of industrial disputes. National Industrial Tribunals are involve only incase of the questions of national importance or if they are of such a nature that industrial establishments situated in more than one State are likely to be interested in, or affected by, such industrial disputes. It consists of one person only to be appointed by the Central Government.

The person shall not be qualified for appointment as the presiding officer unless he is, or has been, a Judge of a High Court. Beside these, the Central Government may, if it thinks fit, appoint two persons as assessors to advise the National Tribunal in the proceedings before it.

Reference of Disputes
Any industrial disputes should have to referred by the Appropriate Government under section 10 for adjudication, to the Conciliation Board, Labour Court, Court of Inquiry or Industrial Tribunal or National Tribunal.

A. Reference of disputes to various Authorities:

A matter is referred to the Conciliation Board for promoting the settlement of the disputes. The Conciliation Board is to promote settlement and not to adjudicate.
But if the purpose of reference of the matter is investigatory instead of conciliatory or adjudicatory, it should be referred to Court of Inquiry. Again, if the matter is related to the Second Schedule or Third Schedule, it is referred to the Labour court.

On the other hand, any matter of the industrial disputes which may relate to the Second Schedule or Third Schedule may refer to the Industrial Tribunal.
Where the disputes relate to a public utility service and a notice of the same is given, it becomes mandatory of the Appropriate Government or the Central Government to refer the matter for adjudication. But the power of the Appropriate Government to make a reference is discretionary and it is open to judicial review.

B. Reference of disputes to National Tribunal involving question of importance, etc:

When industrial disputes are of national importance or they are likely to be affect the industrial establishments situated in more than one State then they are referred to the National Tribunal by the Appropriate Government for adjudication. Again if any matter referred to National Tribunal is pending in a proceeding before a Labour Court or Tribunal, the proceeding before Labour Court or Tribunal becomes invalid. On the other hand, it is not lawful to refer any matters which are under adjudication before the National Tribunal to Labour Court or Tribunal.

C. Reference on application of parities:

If a person individually or jointly applies any matter in a prescribed manner to the Conciliation Board, Labour Court, and Court of Inquiry, Industrial Tribunal or National Tribunal for adjudication and the Appropriate Government on being satisfied on the same specifies such time limit as it these proper to submit the award.

D. Time limit for submission of awards:

Section 10 (2A) of the Act specifies the time period for submitting award by the Appropriate Government, when any reference is made to the Labour Court, Industrial Tribunal or National Tribunal for adjudication.

Voluntary Reference of Disputes To Arbitration:

The settlement of industrial disputes may be done through voluntary reference under section 10-A.
i) When an industrial dispute is not referred to Conciliation Board, Labour Court, and Court of Inquiry, Industrial Tribunal or National Tribunal for adjudication, the employer and the workmen through a written agreement forward the matter for arbitration specifying the names of the arbitrator.
ii) The arbitration agreement should be made in prescribed form and should be signed by the parties.
iii) Within one month from the receipt of the arbitration agreement which should be forwarded to Appropriate Government and the Conciliation officer, a copy of the same has to be published in the official Gazette.
iv) The arbitrator or arbitrators shall have to investigate the disputes and submit to the Appropriate Government the award.
v) The award should be signed by the arbitrator or the arbitrators.
vi) The strike or lock-out in connection with the disputes should be prohibited by an order of the Appropriate Government.

Procedure And Powers of Authorities

Section 11 provides that every Conciliation officer or member of a Board or Court or Presiding officer of a Labour Court, Industrial Tribunal or National Tribunal after giving notice can enter the premises occupied by any establishment to which the disputes relate and follow such procedure as the arbitrator or other authority concerned may think fit. They have the same power as are vested in the Civil Court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 while trying a suit in matters like:
a. enforcing the attendance of any person and examining him on oath,
b. compelling the production of documents and material objects,
c. issuing commissions for the examination of witnesses,
d. in respect of other such other matters as may be prescribed.

An assessor or assessors may be appointed by the Conciliation Board, Labour Court, and Court of Inquiry, Industrial Tribunal or National Tribunal for advice having special knowledge on that matter. The Conciliation officer may enforce the attendance of any person for the purpose of examination of such person or call for and inspect the documents. The Conciliation Board, Labour Court, and Court of Inquiry, Industrial Tribunal or National Tribunal has the full power to determine to what extent, by whom and subject to what conditions costs are to be paid.

Thus, it is seen that section 11 (1) has given wide power to the Conciliation Board, Labour Court, and Court of Inquiry, Industrial Tribunal or National Tribunal in the settlement of industrial disputes.

Award And Settlement

Award means an interim or a final determination of any industrial disputes or of any question relating thereto by any Labour Court, Tribunal or National Tribunal and includes an arbitration award made under section 10A Section 2 (b).

The report of the Board of Conciliation or the Court of Inquiry shall be in writing and shall be signed by all the members and the award of a Labour Court and Industrial Tribunal shall be in writing and shall be signed by the Presiding officer. Section 21 requires certain matters to be kept confidential and it is further provided by the section that certain matters are not disclosed without the written consent of the secretary of the trade union or firm or company in question as the case may be of any information obtained by Conciliation Board, Labour Court, and Court of Inquiry, Industrial Tribunal or National Tribunal. An award usually is enforceable on the expiry of 30 days from the date of its publication except when the Appropriate Government declares that the award given by the Labour Court and Industrial Tribunal shall not be enforceable on the expiry of 30 days from the date of its publication.

Again, it may not be enforceable on the expiry of 30 days from the date of its publication, if the Central Government get the opinion regarding the award given by the National Tribunal. In such case, the Appropriate Government or the Central Government may within 90 days from the date of publication of the award under section 17 make an order rejecting or modifying the award. But, if it appears that the award given by the Industrial Tribunal is fair and just, it is authorised to issue direction that the award takes effect retrospectively.

Persons on whom settlements and awards are binding (Section 18):

1. Settlement and awards are binding on all the parties under the agreement arrived at between the employers and workers in the course of conciliation proceedings.
2. An arbitration award is binding on the concerned parties of the agreement who referred the disputes to arbitration.
3. An arbitration award or settlement award or award of Labour Court, and Industrial Tribunal or National Tribunal is binding on—

a. All the parties to the disputes,

b. On all other parties who are summoned to appear in the proceeding as parties to the disputes, unless the Board, Arbitrator, Labour Court, Industrial Tribunal or National Tribunal in the settlement of industrial disputes as the case may be, records the opinion that they were so summoned without proper cause.

c. Where a party referred to Clause (a) and Clause (b) is an employer, his heirs, successors assigned in respect of the establishment to which the dispute relates.
d. But if the parties referred to in Clause (a) or Clause (b) is of workmen, all person who were employed in the establishment or part of the establishment, as the case may be, to which the disputes relates on the date of the dispute and all persons who subsequently become employed in that establishment or part.

A settlement arrived at in the course of conciliation proceedings before a Conciliation officer shall come into operation on such date as is agreed upon by the parties to the disputes and on the date on which the memorandum of the settlement is signed by the parties to the disputes when no date is agreed. But, if a person breaches any term of any settlement or award which is binding on him he shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 6 months or with fine or both.

Let Us Sum Up
In this unit, we have discussed the following issues:
# The Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 makes provision for the investigation and settlement of disputes through Conciliation officer or member of a Board or Court or Presiding officer of a Labour Court, Industrial Tribunal or National Tribunal.
# Any industrial disputes may be referred by the Appropriate Government under section 10 for adjudication, to the Conciliation Board, Labour Court, and Court of Inquiry, Industrial Trkibunal or National Tribunal.
# The settlement of industrial disputes may be done through voluntary reference under section 10-A
# The conciliation officer or a member of a Board or Court or the Presiding officer of a Labour Court, Industrial Tribunal or National Tribunal has the same power as are vested in the Civil Court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.

Written By: Akshay Batheja

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