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Labour courts: The industrial disputes Act 1947

Labour is a subject in the Concurrent Listunder the Constitution of India where both the Central and State Governments are competent to enact legislation subject, however, to reservation of certain matters for the Central Government.

The Ministry of Labour and Employment seeks to protect and safeguard the interests of workers in general and those who constitute the poor, deprived and disadvantaged sections of the society, in particular, with due regard to creating a healthy work environment for higher production and productivity, and developing and coordinating vocational skill training and employment services.

Government's attention is also focused on promotion of welfare activities and providing social security to the labour force both in the organised and unorganised sectors, in tandem with the process of liberalisation. These objectives are sought to be achieved through enactment and implementation of various labour laws, which regulate the terms and conditions of service and employment of workers.

What is an Industrial Dispute?
The following are the thrust areas of the Government concerning labour laws:

3. What is an Industrial Dispute?
# Labour policy and legislation;
# Safety, health and welfare of labour;
# Social security of labour;
# Policy relating to special target groups such as women and child labour;
# Industrial relations and enforcement of labour laws in the central sphere;
# Adjudication of industrial disputes through Central Government Industrial Tribunals-cum-Labour Courts and National Industrial Tribunals;
# Workers' education;
# Labour and employment statistics;
# Emigration of labour for employment abroad;
# Employment services and vocational training;
# Administration of central labour and employment services; and
# International cooperation in labour and employment matters.
India has a number of labour laws that govern almost all the aspects of employment such as payment of wages, minimum wages, payment of bonus, payment of gratuity, contributions to provident fund and pension fund, working conditions, accident compensations, etc. The Government has enacted certain central legislations, viz, the Employees Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, Employees State Insurance Act, Payment of Wages Act, Minimum Wages Act, Equal Remuneration Act, Maternity Benefits Act, etc.
In addition, at the State level, the State Governments usually have a separate Labour Ministry, which seeks to ensure compliance with State labour laws (viz, State Shops and Establishments Act, Labour Welfare Fund Act, etc) through its Labour Department, which is generally operational at the district level.

The law relating to labour and employment in India is primarily known under the broad category of Industrial Law. Industrial law in this country is of recent vintage and has developed in respect to the vastly increased awakening of the workers of their rights, particularly after the advent of Independence. Industrial relations embrace a complex of relationships between the workers, employers and government, basically concerned with the determination of the terms of employment and conditions of labour of the workers

To settle the Industrial disputes, the Industrial Disputes Act,1947 provides three kinds of Courts - Labour Court, Industrial Tribunal and National Tribunal or National Industrial Tribunal.

The appropriate government may constitute one or more labor Courts for the purpose of adjudicating on the matter referred to it. The ID Act provides for the appointment of Conciliation Officers, Board of Conciliation, Courts of Inquiry, Labour Courts, Tribunals, and National Tribunals for settlement of disputes. Another method recognised for settlement of disputes is through arbitration. The Industrial disputes Act provides a legalistic way of settling disputes.

The goal of preventive machinery as provided under the Act is to create an environment where the disputes do not arise at all. The ID Act prohibits unfair labour practices which are defined in the Fifth Schedule strikes and lockouts (except under certain defined conditions and with proper notice). It also provides for penalties for illegal strikes and lockouts and unfair labour practices and provisions regarding lay off and retrenchment as well as compensation payable thereof.

What is an Industrial Dispute?

3. What is an Industrial Dispute?
According to Section 2A: Where any employer discharges, dismisses, retrenches or otherwise terminates the services of an individual workman, any dispute or difference between that workman and his employer connected with, or arising out of, such discharge, dismissal, retrenchment or termination shall be deemed to be an industrial dispute notwithstanding that no other workman nor any union of workmen is a party to the dispute.

Industrial Disputes have adverse effects on industrial production, efficiency, costs, quality, human satisfaction, discipline, technological and economic progress and finally on the welfare of the society. A discontent labour force, nursing in its heart mute grievances and resentments, cannot be efficient and will not possess a high degree of industrial morale. Hence, the Industrial Dispute Act of 1947, was passed as a preventive and curative measure.

Labour courts

Individual workmen raises Industrial dispute Under Section7 of Industria Dispute Act 1947 . Which says:
The appropriate government is empowered to establish one or more Labor Courts. Its function is to settle industrial disputes concerning any matter specified in the second schedule.

Qualification for the appointment of a Presiding Officer of the Court
(i) He is or has been a judge of high court
(ii) He has for a period of not less than 3 years, been a district judge or an additional judge
(iii) He has held any judicial office in India for not less than 7 years
(iv) He has been the presiding officer of labor Court constituted under any Provision Act for not less than 5 years

Disqualifications :
Section 7-C of the Industrial Dispute Act,1947 prescribes Disqualifications for the presiding officer to be appointed to the Labor Court. It provides that no person shall be appointed to or continue in office if:
(a) He is not an independent person; or
(b) he has attained the age of 65 years

Matters within The Jurisdiction of Labour court

Second Schedule
1. The propriety or legality of an order passed by an employer under the standing orders;
2. The application and interpretation of standing orders;
3. Discharge or dismissal of workmen including reinstatement of, or grant of relief to, workmen wrongfully dismissed;
4. Withdrawal of any customary concession or privilege;
5. Illegality or otherwise of a strike or lock-out; and

According to [Sec 10 (1) (c)] matters specified in THIRD SCHEDULE, dispute not effecting more than 100 workers can be referred to labour court.

According to [Sec 10 (2)] when parties in the industrial dispute apply to the government to refer dispute to the labour court and if government satisfies it shall make the reference to the labour courts.

According to [Sec 10 (6)] no Labour Court or Tribunal shall have jurisdiction to adjudicate upon any matter which is under adjudication before the National Tribunal.

Power and status of the labour court in trying offences
Section 215 and 216 of the code provides the procedure and powers of labour court which is may be of two types;
(1) Power and status in trying offences and
(2) Power and status in civil maters

(a) The labour court shall follow as nearly as possible summary procedure as prescribed under the code of criminal procedure 1898 (Act V of 1898)
(b) A labour court shall for the purpose of trying an offence under the code have the same powers as are vested in the court of a magistrate of the first class under the code of criminal procedure.
(c) The labour court shall for the purpose of inflicting punishment have the same powers as are vested in Court of Session under that code.
(d) A labour court shall while trying an offence hear the case without the members.

What is an Industrial Dispute?

3. What is an Industrial Dispute?
Labour court is a civil court
In the case of Pubali Bank V the Chairman 1st labour court 44DLR(AD)40 the question was raised whether a labour court is a civil court or not their. Lordship of
1. Md. Abdul Halim, The Bangladesh Labour Code, 2006,CCB Foundation, Ed.1, p.282
the appellate division upon consideration of relevant provision of the industrial relations ordinance 1969 held that the labour court acts as civil court for limited purpose but not a civil court at all it is only by a legal fiction or a statutory hypothesis that it is to be treated as a civil court.

Duties of Labour Court:

Labour Court shall hold its proceedings within the specified period and shall submit its award to the Government. Such award must be in writing and signed by the presiding officer.

The Labour Court has the same power of a Civil Court. The proceeding of the Labour Court shall not be questioned on the ground that it is not properly constituted

Functions of the Labour Court:

The functions of the Labor Court are laid down in Section 7 of the said Act.

(I) Adjudicating upon industrial dispute specified in the second schedule of the said Act; are as follows
(1) The propriety or legality of any order passed by an employer under the standing orders;
(2) The application and interpretation of the Standing Orders
(3) Discharge or dismissal of the workman including reinstatement of, or grant of relief to, the workman wrongfully dismissed;
(4) Withdrawal of any customary concession or privilege
(5) Illegality or otherwise of a strike or Lockout; and
(6)All matters other than those specified in the Third Schedule which fall within the jurisdiction of Industrial Tribunal.

(II) Performing such other functions as may be assigned to it under the Industrial Dispute Act, 1947
The Other matters assignable on the Labor Court are:
(1) Voluntarily reference of dispute by written agreements between the parties under Section 10A;
(2).Arbitration reference under Section 10A;
(3) Permission to or approval of the action of discharge under Section 33;
(4) Complaint by the aggrieved employees under Section 33A;
(5) Application under Section 33(c)2A for the computation of any money or any benefit which is capable of being computed in the terms of money.
(6) Reference of awards or settlement for the interpretation in case of difficulty or doubt under Section 36AA

Procedure and Powers of Labour court

(a) While trying offences
While trying an offence, a labour court shall follow as nearly as possible summary procedure as provided under Cr.P.C, and shall have the same powers as are versed in the court of a magistrate of first class specially empowered u/sec 30 of Cr.P.C.

(b) While adjudicating industrial dispute
For the purpose of adjudicating and determining any industrial dispute, a labour court shall be deemed to be a civil court and follow the procedure as provided under C.P.C and shall have the same powers as are vested in such court under C.P.C. Following are the powers of labour court.

i. To Grant Relief
Labour court can grant full and final relief to the aggrieved party.

ii. To Grant interim Relief
Labour court is also competent to grant ad-interim relief under its inherent powers.

iii. To grant Adjournment
Labour court has the power to grant adjournments if just cause to shown.

iv. To enforce attendance of any Person
Labour court can enforce the attendance of any person which is necessary for deciding the matter before it and this it can done so by issuing summons, proclamation etc.

v. Power to Examiner
Labour court can examine any person on oath.

vi. To compel Production of Documents etc
Labour court can compel the production of documents and material objects, necessary for deciding the matter in questions.

vii. To issue commissions
Labour court has the power to issue commissions for the examination of witnesses or documents.

viii. Ex-part Proceedings
Labour court has the power to proceeding ex-parte, where the party failed to appear before it.

ix. to determine Grievance of workmen
Labour court may determine the grievance of workmen and in doing so, it shall go into all the fact of the case and pass such order as may be just and proper in the circumstances of the case.

c. While trying cases of Rights Given under special Acts
Where the special acts confer on litigants certain rights but the power to decide, try or adjudicate the case in conferred on the labour court established under PIRA 2010 and no procedure is prescribed, labour courts can apply their own procedure.

Territorial Jurisdiction of Labour Court

Assumption of jurisdiction by labour court without deciding objection to territorial jurisdiction was unwarranted unless it had necessary territorial jurisdiction, its order was bound to be without lawful authority.

Exemption from court fee
No court fees are payable for filing, exhibiting or recording any document in or obtaining any document from labour court.

10. Withdrawal of case
Where the matter has resolved the parties amicable before a final order is passed by the labour court, the labour court may allow withdrawal of such case if there are sufficient grounds for such withdrawal.

Central Government Industrial Tribunal-cum-Labour Courts (CGITs)

1. Central Government Industrial Tribunal-cum-Labour Courts (CGIT-cum-LCs) are set up under the provisions of Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 for adjudication of industrial disputes arising in Central Sphere. There are 22 CGIT-cum-LCs set up in various States, out of which 10 are under Non-Plan and 12 under Plan Scheme. The CGIT-cum-LC No.1, Mumbai and CGIT-cum-LC, Kolkata also function as National Tribunals. These CGIT-cum-LCs are headed by Presiding Officers who are selected from amongst High Court Judges (serving/retired) or Distt./Addl. Distt. Judges (serving/retired).

2. The CGIT-cum-LCs have been set up with the objective of maintaining peace and harmony in the industrial sector by quick and timely disposal of industrial disputes through adjudication so that industrial growth does not suffer on account of any widespread industrial unrest. Moreover, due to increasing awareness about their rights and Labour laws among the workers, there is a gradual increase in the number of cases being filed under the I.D.Act before the CGIT-cum-LCs. Restructuring of workforce on account of application of latest technology in the industries has also resulted in retrenchment, declaration of surplus etc. which has further led to an increase in workers grievances.

To conclude, I can say, that the labour court is a judicial forum to resolve the disputes between employers and workmen. It has two-fold jurisdiction viz civil and as well as criminal, nut it is not subordinate to the high court and Article 201 of the constitution of Pakistan, 1973 does not apply to it. The labour court is left with the owner discretion to decide what is just and fair in the circumstances of each case, having regard to equity, fairness and social justice.

Written by: Nikita Sharma (Student), K.R. Mangalam University ,Harayana
Ph no: 805230002, Email Id:[email protected]

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