In India, the rights of employer and employee are safeguarded under the Labour laws and more specifically under Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. Accordingly, it is also the right of an employee to be able to question the activities of employer and the associated organisation.

The recent Civil Misc. Appeal i.e. Karur Vysya Bank Retirees’ Association versus Deputy Commissioner of Labour I came up from the decision of Deputy Commissioner of labour, who answered in the negative to the request of the Association of retired employees to register the same, on the ground that members of the association are not in service. In the present case, it was not in dispute that none of the members of the association are in employment of the Bank, though they were ex-employees of the Bank. The essence of the appeal lies in the fact that eligibility period for the purposes of pension could be raised as an Industrial Dispute and cannot be raised by an individual nor can he approach the Civil Court for such a relief thus if all the doors are shut, there will remain no remedy for the employees.

Accordingly, the Special Government Pleader (CS) relied on two judgements with regard to the registration of Trade Union, viz. Government Tool Room and Training Centre’s Supervisory and Officers’ Association, Bangalore and another vs. Assistant Labour Commissioner and Deputy Registrar of Trade Unions, Bangalore Division, Bangalore and other and another judgement of the Bombay High Court in Bajaj Auto Ltd., vs. State of Maharashtra. The two judgements threw light upon the definitions of “Trade Dispute” and “Trade Union” and thus giving clarity as to who could be a workman under the Trade Unions Act.

Considering the arguments of the Govt. Pleader and the respondents, the bench comprising Justice S. Vaidyanathan stated: –

“India is a democratic country, where there is no restriction for the citizens to express their grievances to Government by means of Ahimsa and as such, preventing one sect of persons, namely, retired employees to form a Trade Union to espouse their cause to the Government cannot be permitted at any cost, by giving a different interpretation to the provisions of law. The word used under the Act, 1926 is “persons actually engaged or employed in an industry with which the Trade Union is connected” and it might be including all persons irrespective of whether they are in service or retired. When the Act itself provides for an extended meaning/definition, the Authority concerned cannot narrow the definition to simply reject the application, as it would definitely be against the very object of the Trade Unions Act itself and is also violative of Article 19(1)(c) of the Constitution of India.”

The Court however clarified that the retired employees would not be permitted to “join hands” with the Association of current employees. It held that the nature of grievances faced by either of the employees were on a different path and both could not be mingled together for espousing the same to the industry with which they are actually connected.

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Link of judgment: – Karur Vysya Bank Retirees’ Association v. Dep. Commissioner of Labour