When is Individual dispute deemed to be an Industrial Dispute under the Industrial Dispute Act, 1947.

Q. When is Individual dispute deemed to be an Industrial Dispute under the Industrial Dispute Act, 1947.


Till the provisions of Section 2-A were inserted in the Act, it has been held by the Supreme Court that an individual dispute per se is not industrial dispute. But it can develop into an industrial dispute when it is taken up by the union or substantial number of workmen (Central Province Transport Service v. Raghunath Gopal Patwardhan, AIR 1957 S.C. 104). This ruling was confirmed later on in the case of Newspaper Ltd. v. Industrial Tribunal.

In the case of Workmen of Dimakuchi Tea Estate v. Dimakuchi Tea Estate (1958) I. L.L.J. 500, the Supreme Court held that it is not that dispute relating to “any person” can become an industrial dispute. There should be community of interest. A dispute may initially be an individual dispute, but the workmen may make that dispute as their own, they may espouse it on the ground that they have a community of interest and are directly and substantially interested in the employment, non-employment, or conditions of work of the concerned workmen. All workmen need not to join the dispute. Any dispute which affects workmen as a class is an industrial dispute, even though, it might have been raised by a minority group. It may be that at the date of dismissal of the workman there was no union. But that does not mean that the dispute cannot become an industrial dispute because there was no such union in existence on that date. If it is insisted that the concerned workman must be a member of the union on the date of his dismissal, or there was no union in that particular industry, then the dismissal of such a workman can never be an industrial dispute although the other workmen have a community of interest in the matter of his dismissal and the cause for which on the manner in which his dismissal was brought about directly and substantially affects the other workmen.

The only condition for an individual dispute turning into an industrial dispute, as laid down in the case of Dimakuchi Tea Estate is the necessity of a community of interest and not whether the concerned workman was or was not a member of the union at the time of his dismissal. Further, the community of interest does not depend on whether the concerned workman was a member or not at the date when the cause occurred, for, without his being a member the dispute may be such that other workmen by having a common interest therein would be justified in taking up the dispute as their own and espousing it. Whether the individual dispute has been espoused by a substantial number of workmen depends upon the facts of each case.

If after supporting the individual dispute by a trade union or substantial number of workmen, the support is withdrawn subsequently, the jurisdiction of the adjudicating authority is not affected. However, at the time of making reference for adjudication, individual dispute must have been espoused, otherwise it will not become an industrial dispute and reference of such dispute will be invalid.

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