Bombay High Court

Bombay High Court: In a writ petition filed by, Godrej and Boyce, against an order of Industrial Tribunal regarding dispute between the petitioner and their employees upon their determination as ‘workmen’ under S. 2(s) of the Industrial Disputes Act 1947, Amit Borkar J.,* upheld the impugned order of the Tribunal and held that the concerned employees were in fact workmen as per the aforementioned Act. The Court, on relying upon several relevant Supreme Court precedents, reiterated that, nature of duties and functions, is the determining factor in ascertaining ‘workman’ under S. 2(s) of Industrial Disputes Act.


The petitioner is a home appliances manufacturing company, and the respondent is a union registered under the Trade Unions Act of 1926 representing workmen of the petitioner company established in Satara. In 2015, the respondent raised the disputed Charter of Demands seeking an enhancement of wages and benefits for the aforementioned workmen, upon which a conciliation proceeding was initiated and failed, thereby referring the dispute to the Industrial Tribunal for adjudication.

The Industrial Tribunal Satara held that 20 persons enlisted in the Annexure to the Statement of Claim are workmen within the meaning of Section 2(s) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.

The petitioner filed a petition under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution objecting to an order passed by the Industrial Tribunal, Satara, (“Tribunal”) whereby, it was held that 20 persons enlisted in the Annexure to the Statement of Claim are ‘workmen’ within the meaning of Section 2(s) of the Industrial Disputes Act 1947 (“ID Act”).


In the light of the determination of the status of a workman, the Court relied on several Supreme Court precedents on this issue and stated that the nature of the duties performed predominantly should be laid emphasis on. Further, the duties should also not be within the exceptions to S.2(s). If such an employee is within the ambit of these provisions and outside the attached proviso, they are a ‘workman’, and their designation or salary becomes irrelevant to that effect.

The Court further stated that the dominant purpose of the employee should be considered, instead of any additional duties performed.

About the exercise of writ jurisdiction, the Court said that ordinarily, the detailed examination of evidence is not necessary, but, the Court took note of petitioner’s claim that the Tribunal’s failure to examine the evidence at length. has necessitated such examination before the Court.

Perusing the petitioner’s claim, the Court stated that the Tribunal is a fact-finding tribunal and ought to have assigned detailed reasons; however, non-supply of meticulous reasoning while deciding preliminary issue cannot be said to be fatal when the conclusion reached by the Industrial Tribunal seems to be the correct per the evidence. The Court pointed out that the evidence establishes that the employees were doing manual, skilled, unskilled work and, therefore, are covered under Section 2(s) of the ID Act.

Upholding the Tribunal’s order, the Court held that the respondent employees who are performing manual, skilled and unskilled work cannot be termed as a managerial or supervisory employees and are workmen. The Court also upheld the impugned order stating that it does not fall within the category of manifest error, referring to the case of Surya Dev Rai v. Ram Chand Rai (2003) 6 SCC 675. Further, the Court also held that the order passed is not clear ignorance or disregard of the provisions of law, resulting in gross injustice.

The Court, while dismissing the writ petition, held that it did not find any reason to interfere under Arts. 226 and 227 of the Constitution, with the impugned order of the Industrial Tribunal.

[Godrej and Boyce Manufacturing Company Ltd. v. Shivkranti Kamgar Sanghatana, 2024 SCC OnLine Bom 938, decided on 28-03-2024]

Judgment by Justice Amit Borkar

Advocates for the Petitioner: J. P Cama, Varun Joshi, and Chetan Arvind Alai

Advocates for the Respondent: Nitin Kulkarni

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