The Delhi High Court recently held that both the management and workmen are entitled to engage advocates to represent them during trial before labor courts and tribunals, with the consent of the other party and the leave of the court (A and B Fashions Pvt. Ltd. vs. Ramesh Kumar).
Justice Prathiba M Singh reiterated the position already established by the Supreme Court and stated that as long as litigation expenses of the workmen to engage an advocate are paid for by the management, there would be no bar on the management engaging an advocate too. The Single Judge was hearing an appeal against an order of an Industrial Tribunal, before which counsel for the management was not allowed to represent their client and whose request for cross-examination of the workmen’s witnesses was also rejected.
Before the High Court, the counsel for the management argued that this position was completely contrary to prevailing law which is that advocates are permitted to represent the management as long as there is no objection by the workman, and their litigation expenses are paid. It was further submitted that it is usual practice for advocates to appear before labor courts for the management and the workmen. He also pointed out that workmen engage experts who may not be enrolled as advocates. 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. While deciding the dispute, the Delhi High Court deemed it necessary to call upon counsel that regularly appears before labor courts.
Senior Advocate Raj Birbal and Advocate Raavi Birbal both assured the Court that the legal position is well-settled that advocates are allowed to appear before labor courts. Advocate Gunjan Singh, who also regularly appears for workmen before labor courts, submitted that workmen engage advocates regularly and as long as litigation expenses are paid, both the workmen and the management are permitted to be represented through advocates.
The Court examined Section 36 (4) (Representation of parties) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 and concluded that a perusal of the above provision clearly shows that 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. Further, Justice Singh emphasized the judgment of the Supreme Court in Thyssen Krupp Industries India Private Limited v. Suresh Maruti Chogule where the Court directed that the workman is at liberty to engage an advocate as long as his fee is paid by the management, and the management can also be represented by an advocate.
The High Court, therefore stated, with the recent decision of the Supreme Court in Thyssen Krupp Industries India Private Limited (supra), 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. Considering these precedents and several other judgments, the Court concluded that once procedural formalities are completed between the parties and the matter reaches trial, it would be inapt to not allow the workmen or management to engage lawyers.