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Industrial Dispute

March 23, 2023 | Dispute Resolution

Industrial dispute means any dispute or difference between employers and employers or between employers and workmen, or between workmen and workmen.

Industrial dispute means any dispute or 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. Failure of the employees and the employers to sort out their differences bilaterally leads to the emergence of industrial disputes.

An Industrial dispute may arise due to the following reasons:

  1. Industrial grievances about  wages, bonuses, hours of work, conditions of work and employment, unjust dismissals or retrenchments, etc.
  2. Management’s unwillingness to talk over any dispute with their employees, unwillingness to recognize a particular trade union, etc.
  3. Affiliation of the trade unions with a political party, where the latter may instigate the trade unions to conduct strikes, lockouts, etc.

The Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 (I.D. Act) has been enacted for the investigation and settlement of industrial disputes and for providing certain safeguards to the workers.

Who can raise an Industrial Dispute?

Any person who is a workman employed in an industry can raise an industrial dispute. It excludes those employed in the Army, Navy, and Air Force and the police service, in a managerial or administrative capacity.

The basic principle applied to determine whether a person is a workman or not is the relationship of master and servant. Unless the relationship between master and servant is established, a person who claims to be a workman cannot be sustained.

Industry means any systematic activity carried on by co-operation between an employer and his workmen (whether such workmen are employed by such employer directly or by or through any agency, including a contractor) for the production, supply or distribution of goods or services to satisfy human wants or wishes.

Dispute Resolution Mechanism:

The principal techniques of dispute settlement provided in the I.D. Act are collective bargaining, mediation and conciliation, investigation, arbitration and adjudication.

The I.D. Act provides for three classes of machinery for adjudication of industrial disputes through the judicial process, namely, labour court, industrial tribunal and national tribunal.

(A) Labour Court:

Labour Courts deal with the matters specified in the second schedule of the I.D. Act. Such disputes are the propriety or legality of an employer to pass an order under the standing orders, the application and interpretation of standing orders which regulate conditions of employment, Discharge or dismissal of workers including reinstatement or grant of relief to workmen wrongfully dismissed, withdrawal of any statutory concession or privilege, Illegality or otherwise of a strike or lockout, and all matters other than those specified in the Third Schedule

(B) Industrial Tribunal:

The Third Schedule of the I.D. Act deals with matters within the jurisdiction of Industrial Tribunals. These are as follows: -

  1. Wages, including the period and mode of payment
  2. Compensatory and other allowances
  3. Hours of work and rest periods
  4. Leave with wages and holidays
  5. Bonus, profit sharing, provident fund, and gratuity
  6. Classification by grades
  7. Rules of discipline
  8. Rationalization
  9. Retrenchment of employees and closure of an establishment or undertaking
  10. Any other matter that can be prescribed
  11. Compared to the labour court, industrial tribunals have a wider jurisdiction.

(c) National Tribunal:

The central government may refer to a National Tribunal for adjudication of such industrial dispute that involves a question of national importance or is of such a nature that the industrial establishment situated in more than one state is likely to be interested in or affected by such dispute.

When a National tribunal has been referred a matter, no labour court or industrial tribunal shall have any jurisdiction to adjudicate upon such matter.

Proceeding before the Labour Court, Tribunal or National Tribunal:

Before filing a Complaint, it is always advised that a notice be served upon the opposite party concerning the grievance and the demand thereof. In case the opposite party fails to respond or neglects the notice, the aggrieved party can approach the appropriate forum, seeking relief. 

  1. The party raising the dispute has to file a statement of claim, complete with relevant documents, list of reliance and witnesses with the Labour Court, Tribunal or National Tribunal within fifteen days of the receipt of the order of reference and also has to forward a copy of such statement to each one of the opposite parties involved in the dispute.
  2. The Labour Court, Tribunal or National Tribunal shall fix the first hearing on a date not beyond one month from the date of receipt of the order of reference and the opposite party or parties shall file their written statement together with documents, list of reliance and witnesses within 15 days from the date of first hearing and simultaneously forward a copy thereof to the other party.
  3. The party raising a dispute may submit a rejoinder if it chooses to do so, to the written statement(s) by the appropriate party or parties within fifteen days from the filing of the written statement by the latter.
  4. The Labour Court, Tribunal or National Tribunal, as the case may be, shall fix a date for evidence within one month from the date of receipt of the statements, documents, list of witnesses, etc.
  5. Evidence shall be recorded either in court or on affidavit.  In the case of an affidavit, the opposite party shall have the right to cross-examine each of the deponents filing the affidavit. As the oral examination of each witness proceeds, the Labour Court, Tribunal or National Tribunal shall make a memorandum of the substance of what is being deposed.
  6. On completion of evidence, a date shall be fixed for arguments / oral hearing which shall not be beyond a period of fifteen days from the close of evidence.
  7. In case any party defaults or fails to appear at any stage the Labour Court, Tribunal or National Tribunal, as the case may be, may proceed with the reference ex parte and decide the reference application in the absence of the defaulting party
  8. The Labour Court, Tribunal or National Tribunal, as the case may be, shall submit its award to the Central Government within one month from the date of arguments/oral hearing or within the period mentioned in the order of reference whichever is earlier.


There is no provision for appeal against the Awards passed by Labour Court, Industrial Tribunal and National Tribunal and the same can only be challenged by way of a writ under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India before the concerned High Court or before the Supreme Court by way of appeal under special leave under Article 136 of the Constitution of India.

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