The Trade Unions Act, 1926 is a law which relates to registered trade union. It includes the detailed procedure and working of the trade unions.

    The Act came into force on 1st June, 1927. It extends to the whole of India.

    The main objectives of the Act are as follows:-

    • To deal with registrations of trade unions.
    • To deal with rights, liabilities and responsibilities of trade unions.
    • To ensure funds of trade unions are rightly utilized.
    • To give legal and corporate status to the registered trade unions.

    Trade Union (Definition)

    Theterm ‘trade union’ is defined under section 2(h) of the Trade Unions Act, 1926.

    As per section 2(h), a Trade Union means any combination formed primarily for the purpose of regulating the relations between:

    • Workmen & Employers, or
    • Workmen & Workmen,
    • Employers & Employers.      


    Section 4 of the Act gives information about the MODE OF REGISTRATION of Trade Unions.

    It states that,

                  Any 7 or more members of trade union may by subscribing their names to the Rules of trade union apply for the registration of trade union.

    In case of a trade union only of workmen, it must have the minimum of the following members on the date of making the application, which are engaged or employed in the establishment:

    1. 10% of the workmen, or
    2. 100 of the workmen.

    It is also important to note that if after making the application for registration, later on if some members dissociate themselves from application, the same will not result in the invalidation of the application. However, if the number of applicants who leave exceeds half of the total number of persons who made application then the application would become invalid.

    Section 5 includes for the Application for Registration of trade union. It requires certain documents to be submitted. They include a copy of the rules of trade union. If in case, a trade union is in existence for more than 1year before its registration, a general statement of the assets and liabilities is also required to be submitted.

    Section 7 incorporates requirements regarding any further particulars if needed by the Registrar.

    It also includes provision for alteration of the name of trade union if it is identical with any other existing trade union.

    Section 8 states that, IF the Registrar is satisfied that all the requirements have been fairly and duly complied with, the Certificate of Registration is granted. The same shall be conclusive evidence that the said trade union is duly registered under the Act.


    The growth of industrialization and capitalism was seen in India during the initial years of the 20th Century. With the number of workers increasing with each passing day, it had become important to safeguard and also protect the rights of these workers. Therefore, for the registration and protection of these groups of workers, the Indian Trade Unions Act, 1926 (now known as Trade Unions Act, 1926) was enacted. 

    A group of 7 or more members of a trade union may apply for registration of a trade union with the concerned Registrar of trade unions, as mentioned earlier. A registered trade union is a body corporate by the name under which it is registered, having a perpetual succession and a common seal with the power to contract and to hold movable and immovable property. A trade union also has the power to sue or be sued in its name.

     The Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 defines “Trade Union” as a trade union registered under the Trade Unions Act, 1926. This in turn means that any Trade Union that is not registered under the Trade Unions Act, cannot be treated as a trade union even under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.

    The Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 also limits the rights and privileges to only those trade unions which are registered. An unregistered trade union has no manner of right whatsoever.

     Many times it is witnessed that workers form their own association and ignore registering as a trade union. They negotiate bonus, incentives and other work conditions as well and the employers too, give them due regard. Such recognition draws the union in believing that they are a trade union possessing negotiation powers, but least do they know that the association or union does not enjoy the recognition as trade union until they are registered duly under the Trade Unions Act. 

    An unregistered trade union may function as a normal trade union as defined under the Trade Unions Act, but an unregistered trade union does not possess any powers as compared to a registered trade union. Powers like raising an industrial dispute, power to represent an employee or the power to be a part of any proceedings under the Industrial Disputes Act.

    An unregistered trade union is also incapacitated of entering into a contract with the employer on behalf of the members or employees. 


    A trade union enjoys the following advantages after registration:

    1. The trade union enjoys the status of being a Body Corporate after registration.
    2. It has a Common Seal and Perpetual Succession.
    3. It has right to both Acquire as well as Hold movable and immovable property.
    4. It can enter into a Contract as a party to it.
    5. Registration of trade union also means that the trade union can Sue and Be Sued in the name of the registered trade union.


    The Trade Unions Act, 1926 has conferred certain privileges and immunities to the members and leaders of the registered trade unions so as to enable them to carry out their legitimate trade union activities without any fear of civil or criminal liabilities. It is also the most important right without which the office bearers of the registered trade unions may not be able to discharge their duties efficiently and effectively.

    Section 17 of the Act provides immunity from Criminal liability and Criminal Conspiracy.

    The section states that any office bearer or member of a registered trade union shall not be liable to punishment u/s 120b(2) of Indian Penal Code for criminal conspiracy.  However, it is important to note that the liability shall be immune only in respect of an agreement that is made between members of union for the purpose of furtherance of any of the objects of the trade union.

    Section 120b(2) of Indian Penal Code –  Criminal Conspiracy ; imprisonment of either description for a term not exceeding six months or with fine, or with both.

    Section 18 provides immunity from Civil liability.

    According to this provision, no suit or any legal proceeding shall be maintainable in any of the Civil Courts against any of the members of a registered trade union. It further includes that the leaders and office bearers of the registered trade unions are immune from civil suits in certain cases, like contractual liability, tortuous liability etc.

    The immunities are, however, available only:

    • to office-bearers and members of trade unions which are registered;
    • for an agreement;
    • which further any such trade union object as specified in Section 15 (objects for which general funds may be spent) of the Act; and
    • for agreements not to commit offences.


    Section 10 of the Act contains provision about the cancellation of registration.

    It states that the Registrar may cancel the certificate of registration on any of the below mentioned grounds:

    • If application is made the trade union itself, or
    • If the certificate so obtained is got by fraud or mistake, or
    • Trade union has dissolved or has wilfully contravened any of the provisions of the Act, or
    • The trade union ceases to have the required number of members.


    Trade Union Act of 1926 is a welfare legislation enacted with the main purpose to protect workers in the organized and unorganized sector from inhuman treatment and for protection of their basic human rights. The legislation contains the provisions for registration, regulation, benefits, and protection of trade unions. Which in turn prove fruitful for the workers.

    Trade unions are an important organ for the development of any country as they put up the needs and demands of the workers by collective bargaining. The employer-employee relationship consists of an important aspect of Collective Bargaining. However, this important aspect is not provided to all the trade unions but only to those which are registered. The demand for mandatory registration of trade union has not been provided under the Trade Union Act 1926.  

    In current times, the growth of media has resulted in the empowerment of such trade unions and they have turned into huge influential pressure groups not only in industrial sectors but also in the agricultural and other allied sectors.