Public Utility status under Industrial Disputes Act, 1947

Reading time: 8-10 minutes.

The Industrial Dispute act,1947 came into force in April,1947. The purpose of the enactment of this act was the settlement and prevention of industrial disputes. It provides safeguard to the workers. The government of India has made several amendments in the Industrial Disputes act,1947 vide The Industrial Disputes (amendment) act, 2010. The amendment was made after tri-partite consultation.

The purpose was to remove the ambiguity in the definition of Appropriate Government and the difference in the interpretation of various judicial judgements. The amended provision came into force vide notification no. 2278(E) dated 15.9.2010. In the amendment, focus was made on the Public Utility Services so as to ensure the availability of theses services to the society at reasonable price and conditions. Public Utility Services includes those enterprises which produce those goods and services which are indispensable part of human life. We’ll be discussing more about the Public utility services, its features and relevance in current times; and will also discuss its status under the industrial Disputes Act,1947.

What is Public Utility status?

Public Utility are those organizations, company or corporations which provide the essential services to the public. The undertakings which supply the basic necessary services such as electricity, water, gas, power, transport etc. comes under the purview of the public utility services.

These public utility services are maintained and regulated by the government vis local, state and national government according to their respective level of authority.

According to Business Dictionary, “public utility is government or private sector owned provider of energy, telecommunications, transportation, waste disposal, water or other such basic goods or services”

The public utility includes all the services which are necessary for the livelihood, and for that reason also they are to be regulated and should be available at reasonable rate. These services involve a huge investment; government gives various incentives to these industries son that they can fulfill their requirements along with providing the services at reasonable rate.

Salient features of Public Utility services under Industrial Disputes act,1947

The objective of the industrial disputes Act is to maintain industrial peace and harmony among the labor class and the employers. The act ensures to provide machinery and infrastructure and various other incentives to the industries to fulfill their requirements and also provides for the settlement of the industrial disputes by negotiations.

The Public utility status is also maintained under the industrial disputes act, 1947. The various features of the public utility services and the Industrial disputes act, 1947 are discussed below.

The main features of the Industrial Disputes Act are: –

  • The disputes will be resolved easily with the help of industrial disputes act. The problem can be referred to the industrial tribunal and can be timely resolved by the appropriate government.
  • There will be a check on the illegal lockouts and strikes.
  • Fair terms and conditions will be made between the workmen and the employers.
  • Compensations and remedy will be given ton the labor in case of his retrenchment a, layoff.

The main features of the public Utility services are: –

  • Public Utility services includes those goods and services which are indispensable part of human life and without them it would be a great hardship for the human to survive.
  • The Public utility services are mostly local in character and are regulated by the local government.
  • These public utilities are organized as monopolies by the government as they provide basic necessities, so any deficit in the quality of their product and services would lead to big social problems.
  • Public utilities involve huge investments, the entire investments had to be, made prior to the commencement of the operations.
  • There is significantly lower risk in public utilities as there is no fear of change in demand and preferences of the customers. The demand and supply of the goods and services fon hand in hand.
  • Public utilities also achieve economies of scale as they producer on a large scale for a wide population.

The Public utility services are regulated under the Industrial dispute act. It is the duty of these utilities to provide its services to all without any discrimination and at a reasonable prioce. It should indulge in unfair trade practices and should not hype the prices. It should provide goods and services at a fair rate and of good qualities to all. The Industrial Disputes act ensures it for the protection of the consumers.

Provisions regarding Public utility status in the Industrial Disputes act,1947

The main purpose of the Industrial disputes act,1947 is ensure the fair term and conditions between the Employer and employee, workmen and workmen as well as workmen and employer. The labor ministry has extended the scope of Public utility services status under the industrial disputes act; it has extended it to the tree services in the recent amendment of the act in 2010, which includes the processing, production or distribution of fuel, gases and Industrial establishments manufacturing or providing nuclear fuel & components, heavy water & allied chemicals & atomic energy & banking industry.

To make it understandable, the list of the various industries which are declared to be Public utility services under sub clause (vi) of clause(n) sec (2) includes:

  • Transport (other than railways) for carriage of passengers or goods by land or water
  • Banking
  • Cement
  • Coal
  • Cotton textiles
  • Foodstuffs
  • Iron and steal
  • Defense establishments
  • Services in hospitals & dispensaries
  • Fire brigade
  • India Government ministry
  • India security press services
  • Copper mining
  • Zinc mining
  • Iron ore mining
  • Services in any oil field
  • REP.
  • Services in the uranium industry
  • Pyrite mining
  • Security paper mill, Hoshangabad
  • Services in the bank note press, dewas
  • Phosphorite mining
  • Magnesite mining

Relevance in current time

The Public utilities are facing certain problems in the current times such as organization of these industries, their management, infrastructure and pricing policy; as these industries produce on a large scale, it is difficult to tackle theses problems. The government should provide aid to theses industries ion the maintenance of them. The industrial Disputes Act, 1947 is outdated in nature. Public Utilities are of great importance in current times. A huge amount of investment is made in this sector and the economy is greatly affected by these industries too. There is much deviation in the condition of theses industries from past few years.

The working conditions and the industrial relations have also changed to a great aspect. The Evolution of new technology has led to in improvement of the quality of products but also has led to the exploitation of consumers and workers. The recent amendments made in the Act has stressed on the importance of the Public Utility Status but there are more reforms which are essential. The government should provide infrastructure and management aid to these industries. To resolve the disputes between these industries, need to be solved; and for this inquiry should be made about their working conditions, tribunals should be set up for dispute resolution, labor courts should be made and the guidelines should be given regarding the working conditions of workers.

Critical analysis

The term public Utility services refer to the special type of the business which provide essential commodities to the public and holds a monopolistic base in the market. According to the definition of Graham Roper, “Public Utility refers to any undertaking that meets the needs or conveniences of a considerable section of the public and that places the undertaking in a position, justifying the imposition of control in return for monopolistic or special privileges.” The public utilities hold a great part of the industries and aims to fulfill the needs of public.

The provisions which are added to the Public utilities Services in the Industrial Dispute (amendment) act,.2010 is of vital importance. The reason behind this is that the theses utilizes holds a monopolistic base in the market and are of essential need of public; even if they manipulate the prices and qualities, the public have to accept that. It is the duty of the government to ensure that these industries are working on a fair basis and are not trying to create monopoly. The Industrial disputes act (amendment) act,2010 makes several amendments in regard of this. The successful implementation of those needs to be scrutinized timely. The working conditions of the workers in these industries is also very poor and the quality of services they provide is also been depreciating; provisions regarding that also to be made.


Public utility Services are an essential part of Human Life, they include those service industries whose primary objective is public welfare. But the increasing monopoly has led to the exploitation of the consumers; so, it is essential that these enterprises should be regularly enquired by the government and the regulations related to these should be revised timely to ensure better services at reasonable rate to the society.

The government should focus on privatization of theses industries as this will increase the quality of the goods and services. The government should also regulate the activities of these industries by timely conducting inquiry about their activities and should make the provisions clearer and review their implementation in the realism.

Author: Riya Kaushik from Geeta Institute of Law.

Editor: Silky Mittal, Junior Editor, Lexlife India.

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