Representation by Advocates before Labour Courts: Del HC reiterates there is no absolute bar

Delhi High Court: Prathiba M. Singh, J., while reiterating that there is no absolute bar on legal practitioners representing Management before Labour Courts, observed that:

Judicial decisions on the question of consent, including implied consent, have primarily turned on the facts of each case.

Instant petition challenged the order by which Counsel for the Petitioner-Management was not permitted to represent his client before the Industrial Tribunal.

Counsel for Petitioner-Management submitted that the impugned order was completely contrary to the prevailing law on the issue inasmuch as Advocates are permitted to represent the management, so long as there was no objection by the workman or the litigation expenses were paid.

Further, the Counsel submitted that the authorized representative of the Management was appearing at the time when pleadings were being exchanged and other procedural formalities were being completed. However, when the matter reached the stage of trial, the Management thought it fit to engage the services of an Advocate for tendering evidence and conducting cross-examination. Accordingly, Counsel Sabharwal had been engaged in the matter.

Adding to the above, Counsel submitted that it is the usual practice before Labour Courts that Advocates appear and represent the management as well as the workmen.

In the present case, Rajesh Khanna was an authorized representative for the Workmen and one such representative of the trade union, regularly appearing for workmen before the Labour Courts. He submits that the Management would be enormously prejudiced if the Workmen are permitted to be represented by an expert and the Management is not allowed to engage an Advocate.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Question for consideration is in respect of the representation of Advocates before the Labour Courts.

As per Section 36(4) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, both parties i.e., the workmen and the management, are permitted to be represented by a legal practitioner with the consent of the other party and with the leave of the Court

From the judgement in Paradip Port Trust, Paradip v. Workmen, (1977) 2 SCC 339, it is clear that there is no absolute bar and if consent is given by the workmen, a lawyer can appear before the Labour Court.

Whether there was consent – implied or expressed, and whether leave ought to be granted by the Adjudicator concerned.

In the recent decision of the Supreme Court in Thyssen Krupp Industries India Private Limited v. Suresh Maruti Chougule [Civil Appeal No. 6586/2019], the clear conclusion would be that a legal practitioner can represent the management before the Labour Court, if the litigation expenses for the workman to engage the advocate are paid by the management.

“…as the matter reaches trial, it would be inapt to say that the management or the workmen would not be entitled to engage Advocates or legal practitioners to represent them, in accordance with law. If the Management wishes to be represented by a legal practitioner, the Court can consider the question of whether the workman has given consent or not, whether impliedly or otherwise. “

Court directed that the parties shall appear before the Labour Court on 20-09-2021.[A&B Fashions (P) Ltd. v. Ramesh Kumar, WP (C) 8929 of 2021, decided on 24-08-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For the Petitioner: Vinay Sabharwal, Advocate

Mr Raj Birbal, Ms Raavi Birbal and Mr Gunjan Singh, Advocates assisting the Court

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