Labour serves as a spinal cord of the nation as it helps the country to
march on the path of development. In our constitution Labour
falls under the
Concurrent List, therefore, both Parliament and state legislatures can make
laws regulating labour. In 2019,India had attempted to consolidate 44 Central
labour legislations into 4 comprehensive labour codes:
- Code on Wages, 2019
- Occupational Safety, Health, and Working Condition Code, 2020
- Industrial Relations Code, 2020
- Code on Social Security, 2020
While the Code on Wages, 2019 has been passed by Parliament, Bills on the other
three areas were referred to the Standing Committee on Labour. The Standing
Committee has submitted its report on all three Bills. Therefore these bills had
been replaced with new ones on September 19, 2020. Afterwards The Lok Sabha passed
the bill on 22 September 2020 , The Rajya Sabha passed it on 23 September 2020
and assented by the President on 28 September 2020.
Among the four code , Industrial Relations Code, 2020 deals with the laws
relating to Trade Unions, conditions of employment in industrial establishment
or undertaking, investigation, and settlement of industrial disputes.
Trade unions developed as a result of industrialization. It is based on the
principle of 'united we stand, divided we fall'. It generally refers to an
organization of employees who have certain common goals to achieve. The
conventional standpoint in the labour management relationship has changed due to
the industrial revolution. Various social and economic evils made it necessary
for the workers to devise elective means to deal with the employers in the form
of trade unions.
The growth of trade union was the result of several strikes,
the deteriorating economic conditions of workers, low wages which could not keep
pace with soaring prices, and the shortage of labour. There was a spike in the
number of trade unions during the end of 1925. They insisted on securing the
rights of the workers, continuous industrial strikes, and attempts in evolving
machinery for settlement and prevention of industrial disputes.
of workers by employers made it necessary to enact a law that can protect their
interests. As a result, to resolve the unrest among the workers and to fulfill
their genuine demands 'Trade Unions Act, 1926' was enacted. As Hans Kelsen said
that every law derives its authority from grundnorm this act has also derived
its authority from the constitution of India which guarantees freedom of
This Act has laid down detailed provisions for the procedure,
formation, conditions for registration of trade unions, advantages of the
procedure, advantages of registration, and immunities available to the union
leaders from civil and criminal laws for the activities of a registered trade
union. Therefore, to provide certain advantages to a union registered under the
Act, the Act has defined the Trade Union in the most comprehensive terms.
act defines a trade union as“any combination, whether temporary or permanent,
formed primarily to regulate the relations between workmen and employers or
between workmen and workmen, or between employers and employers, or for imposing
restrictive conditions on the conduct of any trade or business and include any
federation of two or more trade unions. The definition of the trade union is the
same in the IRS code In the IRS code, 2020 word workmen have been replaced with
the word worker to make the provision gender-neutral.
Procedure for Registration of a Trade Union
Chapter III of the Industrial Relation code, 2020 deals with the provisions of
the registration of trade unions. The whole process of registration in the case
of trade union registration is vested with the registrar of trade unions.
Section 5 of the act provides for the appointment of the registrar of a trade
union. The section authorizes the appropriate government to appoint additional
and deputy registrars for each state if it thinks fit. The additional and deputy
registrars are appointed where the registrar of a trade union is unable to
discharge the powers and functions as prescribed. He may exercise such powers
and functions of Registrar with a local limit as may be specified for this
Mode of Registration: 6
Any seven or more members of a Trade Union may, by subscribing their names to
the rules of the Trade Union and by otherwise complying with the provisions of
this Act for registration, apply for registration of the Trade Union.
After the amendment of 2001 two proviso have been added
to this clause which says at least 100 or 10% member of a trade union shall be
employed and the second proviso says all the seven-member applying for the
registration shall be employed in the industrial establishment. The second
proviso has been added for the situation where 10% of the employee is less than
7. For eg if an establishment has 30 employees only then in that case, 3
employed members in the trade union out of 30 won't be considered as fulfillment
of the condition.
As per Section 6 (2), any application made under sub-section (1) for
the registration of a Trade Union shall not be deemed to have become invalid
merely because at any time after the date of the application, but before the
registration of the Trade Union, some of the applicants, but not exceeding half
of the total number(7) of persons who made the application, have ceased to be
members of the Trade Union or have given notice in writing to the Registrar
dissociating themselves from the application.
Provisions to be contained in the rules of a Trade Union: 7
According to Section 7 of the Act, a Trade Union shall not be entitled to
registration under the Act unless the executive committee has been established
in accordance with the provisions of the Act and the rules provide for the
- The name of the Trade Union;
- The whole of the objects for which the Trade Union has been established;
- The whole of the purposes for which the general funds of the Trade Union
shall be applicable, all of the purposes to which such funds are lawfully
applicable under this Act;
- The maintenance of a list of the members of the Trade Union and adequate
facilities for the inspection thereof by the office-bearers and members of
- The admission of ordinary members who shall be persons engaged or
employed in an industry with which the Trade Union is connected, and also
the admission of the number of honorary or temporary members as
office-bearers required under section 22 to form the executive of the Trade
(ee) The payment of a subscription by members of the Trade Union which shall be
not less than:
- One rupee per annum for rural workers.
- Three rupees per annum for workers in other unorganized
- Twelve rupees per annum for workers in another case.
- The conditions under which any member shall be entitled to any benefit
assured by the rules and under which any fine or forfeiture may be imposed
on the members
- The manner in which the rules shall be amended, varied, or rescinded
- How the members of the executive and the other office-bearers of the
Trade union shall be appointed and removed;
The duration of the period being not more than three years for which the
members of the executive and other office-bearers of the Trade Union shall
- The safe custody of the funds of the Trade Union, an annual audit, in
such manner, as may be prescribed, of the accounts thereof, and adequate
facilities for the inspection of the account books by the office-bearers and
members of the Trade Union; and
- How the Trade Union may be dissolved.
In M. T. Chandrasennan v N sukumaranthe court held that The members of trade
unions are members under section 6(ee). The payment of subscription by members
to the trade union has been made compulsory under section 6 (ee) of the Act. The
trade unions cannot refuse to receive subscription from its members.
Bokajan Cement Corporation Employees Union vs Cement Corporation of
India, held that members of the union does not automatically cease upon
termination of the employment.
Application for Registration: 8
As per Section 8 of the Act, every application for registration of a Trade
Union shall be made to the Registrar. It should be accompanied by a copy of the
rules of the Trade Union and a statement of the following particulars, namely:
- The names, occupations, and address of the members making the
- The name of the Trade Union and the address of its head office; and
- The titles, names, ages, addresses, and occupations of the
office-bearers of the Trade Union.
Where a trade union has been in existence for more than a year, then a copy of
the assets and liabilities of the Trade Union shall also be submitted along with
the application for registration.
Power to Call for Further Particulars and to Require Alterations of Names: 8
The Registrar may call for further information to satisfy himself that any
application complies with the provisions of section 85, or that the Trade Union
is entitled to registration under section 6 and may refuse to register the Trade
Union until such information is supplied. If the name under which the Trade
Union is proposed to be registered is identical with that by which any other
existing Trade Union has been registered or, in the opinion of the Registrar, so
nearly resembles such name as to be likely to deceive the public or the members
of either Trade Union, the Registrar shall require the persons applying for
registration to alter the name of the Trade Union stated in the application and
shall refuse to register the Union until such alteration has been made.
Tata workers union v state of Jharkhand in this case it was held that
registrar cant intervenes in the matter of holding the election of office bearer
of a registered trade union.
Section 9 provides that, if the Registrar is satisfied that the Trade Union has
complied with all the requirements of this Act regarding registration, then he
shall register the Trade Union.
In North Central Railway Employees Sangh and Ors v UOI
. it has been held:
“Whether the registration is rightly given or not, can be examined only by the
competent statutory authority established under the Trade Unions Act. The police
authorities have no competence to give an opinion on this aspect.”
In Inland Seam Navigation Workers' Union, a request for registration was made
through an application by the workers' union but it was turned down by the
Registrar declaring it unlawful based on its object to be for all practical
The Justice Derby shire said:
“In my view, the duties of the Registrar were to examine the application and to
look at the objects for which the union was formed. If those objects were
objects set out in the Act, and if those objects did not go outside the objects
prescribed in the Act and if all the requirements of the Act and the regulations
made thereunder had complied with, it was his duty, in my view, to register the
In R.K. Women's Union
 there was a question as to the obligation of the
Registrar to hear before making an order under section 8. The Court answered and
“Once, therefore, the Registrar is satisfied that the requirement of the statute
has been complied with, it is obligatory upon him to enter in a register the
applicant-union and he has no objection to hearing the existing unions in the
field before making the order under section 8.”
In ONGC Workmen's Association V state of W.B
. , the Court held that:
order passed under Section 9 by the Registrar must be administrative in nature.
The Registrar is not deemed to be a quasi-judicial authority to decide any
disputed question of fact or law. He has no authority to ask for any of the
parties to lead evidence and to give an opportunity to the other party to
cross-examine any witness.”
The Registrar, on registering a Trade Union shall issue a certificate of
registration in the prescribed form .The certificate will act as conclusive
evidence that the Trade Union has been duly registered under this Act.
In Telco Workers' Case
, the High Court has laid down, “There is no provision
in the Trade Unions Act, 1926 which confers a power on the Registrar, Trade
Unions to adjudicate the interse dispute between the parties. The Registrar has
no power under the Act to entertain grievances of private members of the Trade
Unions though, a complaint may become a source of information to the Registrar,
for forming an opinion for issuing show cause notice under Section 9of the Act.”
- Any person aggrieved by any refusal of the Registrar to register a Trade
Union or by the withdrawal or cancellation of a certificate of registration
may, within such period as may be prescribed, appeal:
- where the head office of the Trade Union is situated within the limits
of a Presidency town to the High Court, or
- where the head office is situated in any area, to such Court, not
inferior to the Court of an additional or assistant Judge of a principal
Civil Court of original jurisdiction as the Appropriate
The government may appoint in this behalf for that area
- The appellate court may dismiss the appeal, or pass an order directing
the Registrar to register the Union and to issue a certificate of
registration under the provisions of section 9 or setting aside the order
for withdrawal or cancellation of the certificate, as the case may be, and
the Registrar shall comply with such order.
- For an appeal under sub-section (1) an appellate Court shall, so far as
may be, follow the same procedure and have the same powers as it follows and
has when trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (5 of 1908),
and may direct by whom the whole or any part of the costs of the appeal
shall be paid, and such costs shall be recovered as if they had been awarded
in a suit under the said Code.
- In the event of the dismissal of an appeal by any Court appointed under
clause (b) of sub-section (1), the person aggrieved shall have a right of
appeal to the High Court, and the High Court shall, for the purpose of such
appeal, have all the powers of an appellate Court under sub-section (2) and
(3), and the provisions of those subsections shall apply accordingly.
Recognition to trade union
In the trade union act 1926, there was no provision related to recognition, IRS
code under section 14 talks about the establishment of negotiating council or
negotiating union. The act has classified trade union into three categories for
- When there is only one registered trade union in an industrial
establishment, then the employer shall recognise such trade union as
- When there is more than one registered trade union exists in an
industrial establishment, and if any of the trade unions consists of more
than 50 % of the workers on the muster roll of that industrial establishment
then the employer shall recognise such trade union as sole negotiating union.
- When there is more than one registered trade union, and no such trade
union has more than 50% of workers on muster roll then the negotiation
council would consist of representatives of such trade unions which have
more than 20 % of workers on muster roll as a member of that trade union.
- In the case of the last two situations, negotiating council will be
valid for only 3 years.
Registration: Compulsory or Voluntary?
The registration of a trade union is not compulsory but is just voluntary under
the Act. The question of voluntary registration is, however, debatable:
- Compulsory registration would prove burdensome and expensive. It is felt
that the present legal position should continue. The provisions of the Act,
itself affords legal status and protection to trade union members which will
encourage trade unions to get themselves registered;
- The registration of trade unions should be made compulsory because all
the unions shall be governed by the provisions of the Act and the rules
framed thereunder in a similar manner.
National Labour Commission in 1969 reviewed many of the labour legislation and
proposed many recommendations, it also reviewed the trade unions act 1929.
The Commission has, inter alia, strongly recommended that Registration of trade
unions must be made compulsory; The registrar must be time-bound to decide the
issue of registration.
Effective measures must be taken for cancellation if the unions do not comply
with conditions regarding the filing of returns or membership;
In the sequel to the recommendations made in the report of the first national
commission on labour series of labour, enactments were passed.
After a gap of almost 72 years, the Second National Labour Commission has been
constituted and submitted its report in the the year 2002 to the Government of
The Commission has recommended that union registration eligibility condition
i.e. requirement of 10 percent membership in an establishment shall not apply in
the case of unions or associations in the unorganised sector; this
recommendation is a clear recognition of the increasing importance of this
sector and the difficulties in organising these workers.
This will surely give
the union movement its much-needed legal incentives to enlarge its base. But one
is not sure how far the unions of unorganised workers will be able to comply
with the wide-ranging requirements attendant on registration. The union law in
India regulates the internal affairs of the unions.
There is no time given to the registrar to either accept the application or
reject it under either IRC or the trade union act. In the act, No of employees
for registration required is 10 % or 100 whichever is minimum is too arbitrary
because it is not necessary that required no. of employees are a member of that
industry even in other countries like USA law requires only 3 people as a member
who is engaged with the establishment. As given in UDHR Everyone has the right
to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests. So
this should be provided with minimum restriction.
Both the actions are contrary to the freedom of association obligations of
India to the extent that it dictates the amount of trade union subscription to
be paid by members. It emphasized the protection of the internal administration
of trade unions noting that such matters should be left to the discretion of the
members of workers' organizations, without any interference by the public
authorities as mentioned in the ILO convention. The Committee called on the
government to take steps to amend those sections. In addition to that, No
provision for re-registration has been provided in the new code.
- 19(1)(b), constitution of India, 1950
- AIR 1947 SC 1789.
- (2004) SC.
- (2002) IIILLJ 474 JHAR.
- (2017), MANU/UP/0365/2017.
- AIR 1963 Cal 57
- (1968) AIR 335.
- (1988) Lab. IC 555 at 560.
- Telco Workers Union v. State of Jharkhand, 2015 II LLJ 448 (Jhar).
- 2016 (6) ABR 258.
- Govt. of India, “Report of the National Commission on Labour” (1969) p.
- Standing committee on labor, 8th report on Industrial Relations
Code,2019 at p. 47
- (1992) IILLJ 160 Ker.
- ILR 1990 KAR 3568
- § 27, Indian contract act 1872.
- Art 23, UDHR
- Art 3, ILO 87th convention