Labour and Industrial Law
Labour and Industrial Law


To settle Industrial disputes, the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 provides three kinds of Courts – Labour Court, Industrial Tribunal and National Tribunal. The appropriate Government under Section 7(1) of the said act may constitute one or more labour Courts for the purpose of adjudicating matters referred to it. As per Section 7(3) of the said Act, the Labour Court is comprised of a presiding officer who is appointed by the government. Further, the Act provides for the appointment of Conciliation Officers, Board of Conciliation, Courts of Inquiry, Labour Courts, Tribunals and National Tribunals for settlement of disputes. 

Powers and functions of Labour court

a) While trying offences
While trying an offence, a labour court shall follow summary procedure as provided under Cr.P.C and shall have the same powers u/sec 30 of Cr.P.C.
(b) While adjudicating industrial dispute
For the purpose of adjudicating any industrial dispute, a labour court shall be deemed to be a civil court as provided under C.P.C and shall have the same powers as mentioned below:

i) Labour court can grant full and final relief to the aggrieved party.

ii) Labour court is also competent to grant interim relief.

iii) Labour court has the power to grant adjournments, if justifiable cause is shown. 

iv) Labour court can enforce the attendance of any person for deciding a matter before it by issuing summons.

v) Labour court can examine any person on oath.

vi) Labour court can compel the production of documents and material objects necessary for deciding a matter.

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

viii) Labour court has the power to proceed ex-parte, where the party failed to appear before it.

C. Withdrawal of case
Lastly, If the parties resolve the matter in an amicable manner 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.

What are the matters that can be adjudicated in Labour Court?

The jurisdiction of a Labour Court is defined in Section 10A of the Act, which states that a Labour Court shall have jurisdiction to decide disputes related to the following matters:

  • Wages, including the period and mode of payment
  • Compensatory and other allowances
  • Hours of work and rest intervals
  • Leave with wages and other conditions of service
  • Bonus, profit-sharing, provident fund and gratuity
  • Retrenchment of workmen and closure of establishments
  • Illegal strikes and lockouts
  • Any other matter that may be referred to a Labour Court by the appropriate government

Additionally, Section 10A(2) of the Act empowers the appropriate government to refer any matter to a Labour Court if it involves any question of law or of general public importance.

Section 17A of the Act provides that any award made by a Labour Court shall be binding on the parties to the industrial dispute as if it were a decree of a civil court.

Section 33C(2) of the Act allows the workmen to approach the Labour Court for the recovery of money due to them under an award, settlement or agreement.

In view of these, the jurisdiction of Labour Court under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 includes the power to settle and decide industrial disputes related to wages, retrenchment, termination and other issues related to employment.

Does the Labour Court has original jurisdiction to try a dispute?

The Supreme Court observed that under Section 33(C)(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act, the Labour Court has no jurisdiction and cannot adjudicate dispute of entitlement or the claim of workmen. It can only interpret the award on which the claim is based. 

Labour Court does not have original jurisdiction to try a dispute under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. The Act establishes a multi-tiered system for the resolution of industrial disputes with conciliation and arbitration being the first two tiers.

Conciliation is the first step in the resolution of an industrial dispute, and it is the duty of the Conciliation Officer to bring the parties to an agreement. If conciliation fails, the dispute is referred to a Board of Conciliation.

If the dispute is not settled by conciliation, it is referred to a Court of Inquiry. The Court of Inquiry investigates the dispute and makes recommendations for its settlement.

If the dispute is still not settled, it is referred to an Industrial Tribunal. The Industrial Tribunal has the power to make an award, which is binding on the parties.

If the parties are not satisfied with the award of the Industrial Tribunal, they have the option to appeal to the Labour Court. The Labour Court has the power to hear and decide appeals from the awards of Industrial Tribunals and award compensation to the affected parties.

Therefore Labour Court acts as an appellate court, it does not have original jurisdiction to try a dispute under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.

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

Power of the Government in making a reference under Secion 10 (1) of the Industrial Dispute Act, 1947

As per Section 10 of the Act, only the appropriate government has the power to refer disputes to the tribunal, court of inquiry or labour court. In case of deciding who will be the appropriate government, as per Section 2 (a) Central Government will be the appropriate Government if any industrial establishment is under the control of the central government. Otherwise, various State Governments will be the appropriate Government.

Reference of disputes to various Authorities:

A matter is generally referred to the Conciliation Board for settlement of disputes. But if the purpose of reference is investigatory instead of conciliatory, it is referred to the Court of Inquiry. Again, if the matter is related to the Second Schedule or Third Schedule, it is referred to the Labour court or Industrial Tribunal.

Reference of disputes to National Tribunal

According to Sec 10 (1-A) When industrial disputes are of national importance or the dispute may affect the industrial establishments located in more than one state then appropriate Government refers the dispute to the National Tribunal for adjudication. Again if any matter referred to National Tribunal is pending, the proceeding before Labour Court becomes invalid. 

Reference on the application of parties

Secondly, as per Sec 10 (2), if a person individually or jointly applies any matter to the Conciliation Board, Labour Court and Court of Inquiry or National Tribunal for adjudication and the Appropriate Government is satisfied, shall refer the matter to the National Tribunal.

Are the reasons given by the Government in refusing a reference justiciable?

The power of the Appropriate Government to refer a dispute is discretionary and subject to judicial review. However, in cases involving disputes related to public utility services, it is mandatory for the Government to refer the matter for adjudication.If conciliation fails and a failure report is submitted under Section 12(4), it is necessary for the Government to see whether there is a case for reference under Section 12(5). If the Government is satisfied that there is a valid case for reference, it may make the reference. 

However, if the Government decides not to make a reference, it is obligated to record and communicate the reasons to the concerned parties.The discretion of the Government may be justified in refusing a reference if it determines that the notice given is frivolous or the reference would be inexpedient.

It has been accepted by the High Court, that if the Government is satisfied that there is a case for reference, it is obligated to make the reference. If the Government fails to provide valid or sufficient reasons for not making reference, its decision may be challenged in court.

Can a reference once made be withdrawn?

It is important to note that the option to withdraw the case is available before the reference is made. Once the matter has been referred for adjudication, the labour court is obligated to decide the case.

However, if the workman submits an application to the Labour Court to withdraw the case, the labour court will answer the reference by providing no relief. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *