Various labour statutes and the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 (“ID Act”) provides for a wide variety of dispute resolution methods. Adjudication means a compulsory settlement of disputes by Conciliation Officers, Labour Courts, Industrial Tribunals, or National Tribunals.
A Labour Commissioner’s Court is also established under various Labour Laws. We shall discuss each of the afore-mentioned under separate heads below.
Legal proceedings under labour laws can be initiated in the following ways:
1. An employee can directly file a claim before the Labour Commissioner/Conciliation Officer for an individual dispute.
2. An employee can file a complaint to an inspector for non-maintenance of registers, non-furnishing of returns, not displaying abstracts of the Act in the organization’s premises, etc. and request him to conduct a search.
3. An inspector may conduct an inspection suo motu (i.e. of his own accord) or upon receiving a complaint from an employee, or directions from a labour commissioner. Depending on the findings from the inspection, the inspector may give the organization an opportunity to explain its stance.
If the inspector is not satisfied, he or she may initiate criminal proceedings (with the sanction of the labour commissioner, wherever required under the law) for the imposition of criminal consequences for violation of the employer’s obligations or non-maintenance of registers, returns, etc.
4. Under certain scenarios, the labour commissioner may himself/herself authorize initiation of recovery proceedings (for example, when the employer does not make payment of minimum wage despite issuance of an order against him) and also authorize initiation of criminal proceedings before the magistrate.
5. Employees may collectively approach a labour commissioner in his or her capacity as a conciliation officer under the Industrial Disputes Act, in respect of industrial disputes.
The labour commissioner may enable them to arrive at a tripartite settlement agreement or upon failure to arrive at such an agreement, refer the matter to an industrial tribunal or labour court.
Brief note on inspections
An inspector’s duty is to conduct inspections and make sure that the provisions of various Labour Laws are being followed. Inspector may give the defaulting organization an opportunity to rectify its actions/inactions by issuing a show-cause notice and giving the organization sufficient time to correctly follow the rules and regulations made under the various Acts.
However, if the organization fails to do so, he may initiate criminal proceedings against the organization. But to initiate the same, the Inspector first needs consent from the Labour Commissioner.