Industrial Dispute Act, 1947 is a piece of beneficial legislation, hence the court have given wide meaning to the term, “workmen” enshrined under Section 2 (s) of the Act which defines “workmen” as – any person (including an apprentice) employed in any industry to do any manual, unskilled, skilled, technical, operational, clerical or supervisory work, for hire or reward, terms of employment be express or implied and includes any such person who has been dismissed, discharged or retrenched in connection with, or as a consequence of dispute. It excludes persons employed in Army /Navy/ Air Force/ Police and those employed in mainly managerial or administrative, supervisory capacity and drawing wages of more than INR 6500.

The author has focused on the landmark case of Dimakuchi Tea Estate which deals with the issue relating to “workmen”.


November, 1950 – Dr. K.P. Banerjee was appointed as Assitant Medical Officer (on probation three months) of the Tea Estate. Conditions, if during probation: – (a) Considered unsuitable for employment: seven day notice terminating the appointment; (b) Guilty of misconduct: Instant dismissal; (c) At the end of probation if considered suitable, Garden`s service confirmed.

February, 1951 – Given an increment of Rs. 5 per mensem.

21st April, 1951 – Letter received stating termination from 22nd April, 1951 instant and was dismissed “unheard” with a month`s salary.


  1. Whether a dispute raised by the workmen (relating to a person who was not a workman) could be an Industrial Dispute under Section 2(k) of the IDA 1947, as it stood before the amendments of 1956?

It is clear from the above question that – whether Dr. Banerjee is workman or not is no longer open to the parties and Supreme Court proceeded on the footing that Dr. K.P. Banerjee was not a workman.

Industrial Dispute definition in Section 2(k) of the Industrial Dispute Act:

  • Any employer or difference between
  • Any employer and employers or employers and workmen or workmen and workmen,
  • Connected with (employment or non- employment) or (terms or employment or conditions of labour, of any person).


Part (1) and (2) of the definition is fulfilled.

Any person” occurring in Part (3) is very wide import and tribunals have not been wrong in equating it with “any workman”.

Hence Argument:

The dispute or difference between employer and workmen, connected with non – employment of Dr. K.P. Banerjee (even though he`s not a workman) is an industrial dispute.

Court Observed:

It is true that definition does not qualify or restrict “any person” cannot mean anybody or everybody in the world. And if done, absurd results are achieved.


Workmen of a particular industry raise a dispute with their employer about the terms of employment of District Magistrate or District Judge of the district in which industry is situated. Though District Judge and District Magistrate comes under “any person” the dispute is not an industrial dispute. Firstly, because such a dispute does not come within the scope of the act having regards to the works “employer” industry and “workmen”, Secondly, there is no possible community of interest between the District Magistrate or District Judge on the one hand and the disputants, employer and workman on the other.

So, counsel conceded four limitations to “any person” in response to the difficulties cited by the court: – (1) when dispute is between workman and employer, the employer must be in a position to give relief to the workmen. (2) The industrial dispute raised by workmen must relate to the establishment in which the workmen are employed so it may be in consistent with Section 18 of the Act. (3) “Any person”, must be an employee discharged or in service or a candidate of employment and need not be a workman. (4) The workman raising the dispute must have a nexus with the dispute, either because of personal interest or in the general interest of labour welfare.

Thus the dispute here is an Industrial Dispute because-

(1) The employer could give relief in the matter of the termination of service of Dr. K.P. Banerjee.

(2) Dr. K.P. Banerjee belonged to the same establishment that is tea garden.

(3) The dispute related to a discharged employee (though not a workman).

(4) The workman raising the dispute were vitally interested in it by reason of the fact that Dr. Banerjee belonged to their trade union. And employees dismissal without formulation of charge and not giving him opportunity to meet any charge was a matter of general interest to all workmen in the same establishment.


(a)  No real difficulty with regard to the first two limitations.

(b) Limitation (3) too widely stated it equated “any person” with “any employee” – past present or future. “any person”, means a person in whose employment/ non employment or terms of employment/ condition of labour, the workman have direct or substantial interest for the dispute to be real.

(c)  Limitation (4) also too generally stated. The workmen can raise a dispute in respect of those persons only where they, themselves have a direct or substantial interest. If the workmen have no direct or substantial interest, then an industrial dispute cannot arise with regard to such person.

Same Conclusion, different stand point:

Ordinarily, only the aggrieve party can raise dispute; but an industrial dispute is put on a collective basis. An individual dispute, not espoused by others of the same class is not an industrial dispute under Section 2(k) of the Act.

Section 18 of the Act supports above, as it makes the award binding not merely on the parties to the dispute, but if it is an employer on his heirs or successors and incase of workmen on all persons employed in the establishment and all who subsequently become employed therein.

If, therefore the dispute is a collective dispute, the party raising the dispute must have either a direct interest or a substantial interest (in the sense that the class to which the aggrieved party belongs is substantially affected).


In the case Dr. K.P. Banerjee, was not a workman, he belonged to the medical or technical staff- a different category from workman.

The appellants have no direct or substantial interest in his employment or non – employment and assuming that he was a member of trade union it cannot be said that the dispute regarding his termination was an industrial dispute within the meaning of Section 2(k) of the Act. Hence, the appeal was dismissed.

In this case the Hon`ble court has also laid down the objectives of the act. The court has stated that the Act attempts to promote good relations between the employer and workmen, secondly to investigate and settle industrial disputes, between employers and employees, employers and workmen or workmen and workmen, with a right of representation by registered trade union or a federation of trade unions or an association of employees. Thirdly, the Act also aims at preventing illegal strikes and lock outs and provides relief to workmen in the matter of lay-off and retrenchment.

Damodaram Sanjivayya National Law University, Visakhaptnam,

Leave a Comment