In a significant judgment, the Bombay High Court has held that the Federation of Labour Law Practitioners cannot be registered as a trade union under the Trade Unions Act, 1926.
A bench of Justice SC Dharmadhikari and Justice Vibha Kankanwadi was hearing a petition filed by Advocate IA Saiyed.
In his petition, Saiyed had challenged an order of the Deputy Registrar, Trade Unions, dated December 31, 2005, dismissing a complaint filed by Saiyed pointing out the error in law committed in granting registration to a lawyer’s body under the Trade Unions Act.
The petition argued that the position and status of an advocate under the Advocates Act, 1961, cannot be lost sight of. When such professionals organise themselves and form associations, they may as well be permitted to do so and enroll as members even non-advocates, but surely, such persons are practicing before a court of law.
In the present case, they (members) are practicing before the labour and industrial courts across the state of Maharashtra. They have formed associations at district level and such district-level associations have, thereafter, organised themselves into the said federation.
In that sense, it is an apex body of the associations at the district level. However, but for the Mumbai Association of Labour Law Practitioners, other associations have obtained registration under the said Act. Such registration could not have been obtained by them, nor the authority could have issued a certificate of registration as a trade union, the petitioner argued.
Thus, the petition was filed invoking Section 10 of the Trade Unions Act seeking cancellation of the registration.
Appearing for the federation, Rahul Nerlekar questioned the petitioner’s locus standi in the issue and also pointed out that necessary parties who may be affected by the petition have not been impleaded.
What Court Said
Upon perusal of provisions of the said Act, the court noted:“A perusal of this provision would indicate that a certificate of registration of a Trade Union may be withdrawn or cancelled by the Registrar. It can be done on an application of the Trade Union and which application would have to be verified in such manner as may be prescribed by the Rules, or if the Registrar is satisfied that the certificate has been obtained by fraud or mistake, or that the Trade Union has ceased to exist or has wilfully and after notice from the Registrar contravened any provision of this Act or allowed any rule to continue in force which is inconsistent with the provisions of the said Act, or has rescinded any rule and in the manner set out by clause (b) of Section 10.”
Rejecting Nerlekar’s argument on petitioner’s locus, the bench also noted that the petition was filed as a result of the inaction of the Registrar on the complaint filed by petitioner IA Saiyed.
The court further noted that the term ‘trade union’ means any combination, whether temporary or permanent, it must be formed primarily for the purpose of regulating the relations between workmen and employers or between workmen and workmen or between employers and employers or for imposing restrictive conditions on the conduct of any trade or business, and includes any federation of two or more trade unions.
Considering this, the court said Nerlekar is unable to point out either from the memorandum of its aims and objects or from other documents of the federation that the member associations of labour law practitioners at district level are seeking to regulate the relations within the meaning of clause (h) of Section 2, which defines the word ‘trade union’.
The court further noted:“We see much substance in the contention of Mr. Patel [petitioner’s lawyer] for we do not see any trade or business, we do not see any industry and we do not see any relationship of employer and employer or workmen and workmen. The district level associations as members of the 3rd respondent, therefore, are not employees, nor is the Federation their employer. If it [Federation] could not have made an application under Chapter II for registration as a Trade Union, having failed to answer the prerequisites or pre-conditions, then, its registration as a Trade Union deserves to be cancelled.”
Finally, the court quashed and set aside the order of the deputy registrar dismissing the petitioner’s complaint and allowed the petition.
Following this, the federation’s counsel sought a stay on the judgment, which the bench declined and reminded him of the decision of the apex court in the case of Ex-Capt. Harish Uppal vs. Union of India & Another and said: “The Labour Law practitioners also include Advocates who are enrolled as Advocates and are governed by the Acvocates Act, 1961. As far as their status and right claimed by them to go on a strike is concerned, this issue is dealt with by the Hon'ble Supreme Court in paragraphs 44 and 45 (Pages 757 and 758) of the decision in the case of Harish Uppal (supra). We do not, therefore, think that through the Minimum Wags Act, 1948. The Trade Unions Act, 1926 or such enactments, the rights of the above nature can be claimed by a section of the society who are termed as 'noble professionals' and are part and parcel of the sovereign function of administration of justice.”
Read the Judgment Here