Industrial tribunal

From Justice Definitions Project

What is Industrial Tribunal?

Central Government Industrial Tribunal-cum-Labour Courts (CGIT-cum-LCs) have been established under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947[1] to resolve industrial disputes within the ambit of Central Government. Spread across various states, there are 22 CGIT-cum-LCs, with CGIT-cum-LC No.1 in Mumbai and CGIT-cum-LC in Kolkata also serving as National Industrial Tribunals(NITs). These tribunals aim to maintain industrial peace and harmony by swiftly adjudicating disputes, thus ensuring uninterrupted industrial growth. Additionally, following amendments to the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, and the Employees' Provident Fund & Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 through the Finance Act, 2017, CGITs/NITs are now entrusted with adjudicating appeals arising from the Employees' Provident Fund & Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952.

Scope of adjudication

Industrial Tribunals are designated to settle industrial disputes and carry out additional functions as specified in this Code. An industrial dispute refers to any disagreement or divergence between employers and employers, employers and workmen, or workmen and workmen. Such disputes are associated with matters related to the employment or non-employment, terms of employment, or conditions of labor affecting any individual.[2] The Central Government-formed Tribunal will also assume the jurisdiction, powers, and authority outlined in clause (m) of section 2 of the Employees' Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952, as mandated by or under that Act.[3]

The Ministry of Labour and Employment is the nodal ministry for CGIT and is responsible for the establishment of the CGIT-cum-Labour Courts, the appointment of Presiding Officers, and the fixation of their pay. Additionally, the scope extends to the administration, establishment, and miscellaneous matters pertaining to the CGIT-cum-Labour Courts. The preparation of Budget Estimates, Revised Estimates, and Final Estimates for these entities falls under their purview. Ongoing duties involve the monitoring of monthly returns for cases and applications, the organization of regular meetings for Presiding Officers, and the handling of VIP references and Parliament Questions. Furthermore, the CGIT-cum-Labour Courts are responsible for managing court cases, addressing RTI applications, and handling public grievances within their domain.

Historical Evolution

The evolution of the industrial tribunal system in India traces back to the Swaran Singh Committee's recommendations in 1976[4]. Recognizing the burden on High Courts due to service cases, the committee proposed the establishment of administrative tribunals at national and state levels. The 42nd Amendment[5] to the Constitution in the same year granted parliamentary powers to constitute tribunals for various matters, including industrial disputes.

Constitutional Amendments:

The incorporation of tribunals into the Indian Constitution occurred through the 42nd Amendment Act in 1976. Article 323-A deals specifically with Administrative Tribunals, while Article 323-B empowers Parliament and state legislatures to establish tribunals for adjudicating industrial and labor matters.

Industrial Tribunal (Central Procedure) Rules, 1954:

The rules governing the functioning of industrial tribunals were established in 1954. Key aspects include procedures for appeals, registration of agreements and awards, notice of change, deposit of money, execution of awards, and miscellaneous provisions covering summoning witnesses, production of documents, and evidence.

Industrial Disputes Act, 1947:

Enacted on March 11, 1947, and replaced by the Industrial Relations Code, 2020, this act aimed to investigate and settle industrial disputes. It came into force on April 1, 1947. Section 7A of the Act provided for the establishment of the Industrial Tribunal for the adjudication of industrial disputes. The evolution of industrial dispute resolution in India reflects a legislative journey that began with the enactment of the Industrial Disputes Act in 1947. Subsequent amendments, notably through the Finance Act in 2017, introduced changes impacting jurisdiction and applicability.

However, a significant shift occurred with the enactment of the Industrial Relations Code, 2020 representing a consolidation and simplification of various labor laws. This comprehensive code subsumed provisions from the Industrial Disputes Act, providing a unified framework for industrial relations and dispute resolution. Notably, the code raised the threshold for applicability and aimed to streamline the regulatory landscape. Section 44 of the Industrial Relations Code, 2020 confer on the government the authority to create Industrial Tribunals through official notification. These tribunals are tasked with resolving industrial disputes and carrying out other duties assigned to them under the relevant laws. Additionally, if a tribunal is formed by the Central Government, it will also handle matters related to the Employees' Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952, as defined in that Act. Essentially, Industrial Tribunals have the responsibility to settle disputes in workplaces and handle specific tasks assigned to them by the government. This legislative evolution signifies an ongoing effort to adapt and modernize industrial dispute resolution mechanisms in India.

Central Government Industrial Tribunal Cum-Labour Courts:

As of March 15, 2021, the central government industrial tribunal cum-labour courts reported 7,312 pending cases. These tribunals were established under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, with their appellate court being the High Court.

Legislative Framework

Constituting Act

The Industrial Tribunal is constituted by the Central Government under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 (14 of 1947).[6] However a detailed provision for working of the Industrial Tribunal has been provided under Section 44 of the Industrial Relations Code, 2020. It outlines the establishment and composition of Industrial Tribunals for the adjudication of industrial disputes. The provision also extends to the Central Government-constituted Tribunal, the jurisdiction, powers, and authority defined in the Employees' Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952.

It prescribes the procedure and jurisdiction of the Tribunal, including case distribution. It stipulates that the bench comprising both members deals with specific cases related to standing order applications, discharge or dismissal of workmen, legality of strikes or lockouts, retrenchment, closure of establishments, and trade union disputes, while other matters are dealt with by a single-member bench.

Section 45 of the Industrial Relations Code, 2020, provides legal protection and immunity to the appointments made by the appropriate Government to the Tribunal, preventing challenges or questions regarding such appointments.

National Industrial Tribunal

The National Industrial Tribunals are established under Section 7B of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 (14 of 1947).[6]These tribunals are designated for resolving industrial disputes that, according to the Central Government, entail matters of national significance or are of a nature likely to concern or impact industrial establishments across multiple states. A more detailed framework for NITs has been provided under Section 46[7] of the Industrial Relations Code, 2020. It establishes the framework for National Industrial Tribunals, specifying their composition, the qualifications required for members, the presiding role of the Judicial Member, and the procedures for their selection and conditions of service. It also empowers the Central Government to appoint supporting staff for the effective functioning of the National Industrial Tribunal.

The power to establish one or more National Industrial Tribunals lies with the Central Government. This authority is exercised through the issuance of notifications. The primary purpose of these tribunals is to undertake the adjudication of industrial disputes. The Central Government deems these disputes to either entail questions of national significance or possess characteristics that are likely to affect industrial establishments across multiple states. In essence, the establishment of National Industrial Tribunals is a strategic measure undertaken by the Central Government to address and resolve disputes of broad-reaching importance within the industrial landscape.

The presiding officer for each bench has to be appointed on the basis of the qualification given under Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and other Authorities (Qualifications, Experience and other Conditions of Service of Members) Rules, 2020.

A person shall not be qualified for appointment as Presiding Officer, unless he, - (a) is, or has been, or is qualified to be, a Judge of a High Court; or (b) he has, for a period of not less than three-years, been a District Judge or an Additional District Judge; or (c) is a person of ability, integrity and standing, and having special knowledge of, and professional experience of not less than twenty years in economics, business, commerce, law, finance, management, industry, public affairs, administration, labour relations, industrial disputes or any other matter which in the opinion of the Central Government is useful to the Industrial Tribunal.

Search-cum-Selection Committee for the post of Presiding Officer, - (i) a person to be nominated by the Central Government chairperson; (ii) Secretary to the Government of India, Ministry of Labour and Employment- member; (iii) Secretary to the Government of India to be nominated by the Central Government-member; (iv) two experts to be nominated by the Central Government- members. Three Years Presiding Officer Sixty- five years of age. The current presiding officers for all the benches can be found on the CGIT's website.

Even in 2023, the positions Presiding Officers of the Industrial Tribunals is being fulfilled under Industrial Disputes Act 1947.[1] The appointments of Judicial and Technical members as prescribed under the Industrial Relations Code, 2020 are not being fulfilled as of February 2024.

Governance Structure

The composition of Industrial Tribunals is delineated in Section 44 of the Industrial Relations Code, 2020, wherein each Tribunal is constituted by two members appointed by the appropriate Government. The composition of Tribunal members is one Judicial Member and one Administrative Member each. Consequently, a Tribunal bench may be formed with the presence of both members, or alternatively, it can be comprised of either a sole Judicial Member or an Administrative Member.

The work assigned to the CGIT is given in the table below -

Provisions relating to members of tribunals

The qualifications and conditions of service for members of the Tribunal are outlined in section 44 of the Industrial Relations Code, 2020. Governed by rules established under Section 184 of the Finance Act, 2017, these regulations cover aspects such as qualifications, recruitment processes, term of office, salaries, allowances, resignation, removal, and other conditions of service as mandated by the Central Government. Specific eligibility criteria are for the Administrative Member, excluding individuals who have previously held a position below the rank of Joint Secretary to the Government of India or an equivalent rank in the Central or State Government. Members appointed by the State Government are subject to rules prescribed by the respective State Government, dictating terms of office, salaries, allowances, resignation, removal, and other conditions of service.

In the event of a vacancy, it is to be filled according to prescribed procedures, and proceedings continue from the stage at which the vacancy occurred. Additionally, sub-section 10 allows the appropriate Government, in consultation with the Judicial Member, to provide necessary officers and staff to ensure the Tribunal functions effectively.

Disqualification of members

Section 48 of Industrial Relations Code, 2020 outlines eligibility criteria for members of Tribunals and National Industrial Tribunals. Individuals cannot be appointed or continue in office if they are not independent or have reached the age of sixty-five. An "independent person" is defined as someone unconnected with the industrial dispute or any industry directly affected by the dispute. This ensures impartiality in resolving industrial disputes.

Procedural Framework

Section 47 of Industrial Relations Code, 2020 outlines the decision-making process of Tribunals and National Industrial Tribunals. According to Sub-section 1, decisions are reached through consensus among the members. In cases where there is a disagreement, as stipulated in Sub-section 2, the differing members must articulate the specific points of contention and refer them to the appropriate Government. Upon receiving such a reference, the appropriate Government, as detailed in Sub-section 3, is responsible for appointing a Judicial Member from another Tribunal or National Industrial Tribunal. This appointed Judicial Member takes charge of hearing the disputed points and subsequently makes decisions based on the majority opinion of the members who initially heard the case, inclusive of the Judicial Member from the other Tribunal who participated in the later stages of the case. This mechanism ensures a resolution in cases of divergence of opinions among Tribunal members and upholds the principle of majority consensus in the decision-making process.

Other rules that govern the procedure are:

Presiding Officers of the Labour Court, Industrial Tribunal and National Tribunal (Salaries, Allowances and other Terms and Conditions of Service) Rules, 2015[8]

These rules establish the terms and conditions of service, including salaries, allowances, and other benefits, for presiding officers of labor-related tribunals and courts. They ensure a standardized framework for the remuneration and working conditions of individuals appointed to these crucial roles, fostering fairness and consistency in the adjudication of industrial disputes.

Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and other Authorities (Qualifications, Experience and other Conditions of Service of Members) Rules, 2017 - Presiding officers of CGIT Rules[9]

These rules establish the qualifications, appointment procedures, terms of service, and conditions for various positions in tribunals and authorities under the Finance Act, 2017. They ensure transparency, accountability, and standardization in the functioning of these entities.

The Appellate Tribunal (Procedure) Rules,1997 (Under EPF & MP Act) - THE TRIBUNAL (PROCEDURE) RULES, 1997 (as amended through EPF Appellate Tribunal(procedure) Amendment Rules, 2017)[10]

It covers essential elements such as the commencement date, definitions of key terms, language of proceedings, procedures for filing appeals, scrutiny processes, place of filing appeals, fees and time limits, content and documents for appeals, service of notices, respondent replies, hearing details, calendar of cases, actions in case of default, ex-parte hearings, substitution of legal representatives, adjournments, order signing, and communication procedures. The rules also specify working hours, powers of the Registrar, dress codes, and financial support details for the Tribunal. Overall, these rules establish a comprehensive framework for the Appellate Tribunal's proceedings, ensuring clarity and efficiency in handling appeals related to the Employees' Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act.

Distribution- Benches and their jurisdiction

There are 22 CGIT-cum-LCs set up in various States, out of which 10 are under Non-Plan and 12 under Plan Scheme.

Sanctioned Strength/vacancies

There are currently several vacancies in the position of Presiding Officer in various cities. The cities it exists include Asansol, Bangalore, Chandigarh-I, Jabalpur, Kanpur, and Mumbai-I. There are vacancies for registrar positions in the following cities: Dhanbad-I, Chennai and Asansol. (as of December, 2023)

Digitisation checklist

The website does not offer the provision of services like, E-filing, E-service, E-hearing, E-orders, E-archives, E-evidence, E-causelist , as of December 2023. The absence of these specific services reflects a current limitation in the functionality provided on the platform. As of December 2023, users are unable to access or avail themselves of the mentioned services through the website interface. This aspect signifies a gap in the range of offerings on the website, which may impact users seeking such services. It is essential for users to be aware that these particular services are not currently available on the website.

Availability of case information

There isn't a specific tab just for judgments and orders. Instead, all the orders from the tribunals are grouped together in the "notice/circular" tab, along with other details like rescheduling and member availability.

Disposal Standards (institution/disposal data)

The information relating to disposal standards is not maintained on the website. However, the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India has provided statistics relating to the disposal of cases, in response to the parliamentary questions.

  1. Unstarred Question no. 255 ANSWERED ON 03.02.2022 in Rajya Sabha
  2. Unstarred Question no. 252, answered on 22.07.2015, Rajya Sabha

The causelists, in their current state, do not adhere to standardized templates or structures, and the scanned copies are updated on the website in PDF format. However, the causelist provide details relating to case number, parties involved, and the current status of each case in the CGIT. Other case related details mentioned in the causelist include- Case Number, Subject, Case Type, Name of Appellant and Respondent. Next Date, Details regarding subject matter of hearing like as “Reply by Respondent” and Order/Decision are mentioned in the following way:

Research that engages with

Industrial Tribunal and the Law of Evidence (1964): This paper advocates for extending the provisions of the Evidence Act to industrial tribunal proceedings. It suggests aligning the rules of the Evidence Act with industrial adjudication to bring certainty without sacrificing efficiency.

Formalism Syndrome in Decisions of Industrial Tribunals (1993): The passage discusses how Industrial Tribunals often approach industrial-relations issues with a technical and formal mindset, using legal jargon and maintaining a legalistic atmosphere. The Presiding Officers (POs) are described as passive, and there is a lack of innovation in inquiry procedures. The legalistic environment, influenced by the background of judicial officers, labor lawyers, and management strategies, tends to standardize rulings, making an informal approach difficult. The author suggests that the compulsory adjudication system itself needs reconsideration to restore informality in settling industrial relations issues.

Issues and Challenges

  • Pendency: The backlog of over 8,008 cases pending for more than five years before Industrial Tribunals is alarming. Urgent action is needed to expedite the adjudication process. Streamlining proceedings, enhancing case management efficiency, and investing in modern infrastructure and technology can help reduce delays. Additional recruitment of personnel may also be necessary to address the workload.
  • Appointment of Members: The existence of vacancies, particularly in pivotal positions, presents a notable obstacle to the efficient and timely resolution of industrial disputes within Central Government Industrial Tribunals (CGITs). The expeditious filling of these vacancies is imperative to ensure the seamless functioning and effectiveness of CGITs in adjudicating and settling labor-related matters. The absence of key personnel may result in delays and hinder the overall efficiency of dispute resolution processes.
  • Underdeveloped Website: Furthermore, the existing limitations in accessing information and functionalities on the official website exacerbate the difficulties linked with the current status of CGITs. The website lacks essential features such as online filing and order searching, posing challenges for stakeholders in monitoring cases and staying informed about legal matters pertaining to Industrial Laws.
  • Non-transparency: A lack of transparency and accessible data regarding vacancies, appointments, and other relevant updates may impede stakeholders' ability to stay informed and engaged in the dispute resolution mechanisms. Enhancing the dissemination of information on the website could contribute to a more transparent and accountable system, fostering confidence in the functioning of CGITs among those involved in labor-related issues.

Way Forward

  1. Prompt Vacancy Filling: Establishing a streamlined process for promptly filling vacancies within CGITs is crucial. Vacant positions can hinder the tribunal's efficiency and delay dispute resolution. By ensuring that CGITs operate at full strength, we can expedite the resolution of industrial disputes and prevent case backlogs from escalating. This initiative requires proactive measures to identify vacancies, streamline recruitment processes, and expedite appointments, thereby bolstering the tribunal's capacity to handle cases efficiently.
  2. Enhanced Website Information: Improving the transparency of the official website is essential for keeping stakeholders informed and engaged in the dispute resolution process. Detailed and up-to-date information on vacancies, appointments, and other relevant updates should be readily accessible. This transparency fosters trust and confidence in the system, empowering stakeholders to stay informed about ongoing developments and participate effectively in the dispute resolution mechanisms.
  3. Digitisation of Services: Introducing comprehensive digital services such as e-filing, e-service, e-hearing, e-orders, e-archives, e-evidence, and e-cause list services is crucial for modernising and streamlining dispute resolution processes. Digitalisation enhances accessibility, efficiency, and transparency, enabling stakeholders to submit documents, attend hearings, access case records, and receive orders online. By leveraging technology, CGITs can expedite processes, reduce paperwork, and improve overall efficiency in resolving industrial disputes.
  4. Regular Disposal Standards: Establishing clear standards for the timely disposal of cases is essential for preventing unnecessary delays and ensuring efficient case management. By defining benchmarks for case resolution timelines, CGITs can prioritise pending cases, monitor progress, and take proactive measures to expedite proceedings. Regular monitoring and adherence to disposal standards enhance accountability, improve efficiency, and instil confidence in stakeholders regarding the tribunal's effectiveness in resolving disputes promptly.
  5. User-Friendly Interface: Designing the website with a user-friendly interface and a dedicated section for judgments and orders enhances accessibility and facilitates navigation for stakeholders. A well-organised and intuitive interface makes it easier for stakeholders to locate relevant information, access judgments and orders, and stay updated on case proceedings. This user-centric approach improves stakeholder engagement and promotes transparency in the dispute resolution process.
  6. Public Awareness Campaigns: Conducting public awareness campaigns is essential for educating the public, legal professionals, and industry stakeholders about the functionalities of CGITs and the dispute resolution process. By raising awareness about available online services, procedural guidelines, and dispute resolution mechanisms, stakeholders can make informed decisions and effectively utilise available resources. These campaigns foster a better understanding of CGITs' role and promote active participation in the dispute resolution process.
  7. Regular Review Mechanism: Implementing a periodic review mechanism enables continuous assessment of CGITs' performance and functionality. Regular evaluations help identify strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement, facilitating adaptive strategies to address emerging challenges and evolving needs. By fostering a culture of continuous improvement, CGITs can enhance efficiency, effectiveness, and responsiveness to stakeholders' needs, ultimately strengthening the industrial dispute resolution framework.

By addressing these recommendations, CGITs can become more transparent, efficient, and accessible, ensuring that industrial dispute resolution in India aligns with contemporary standards and best practices.

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