Dharangadhara Chemical Works Ltd. VS. State of Saurashtra Case Summary 1957 SC

Dharangadhara Chemical Works Ltd. VS. State of Saurashtra Case Summary 1957 SC

Dharangadhara Chemical Works Ltd. VS. State of Saurashtra in the case which deals with the issue regarding whether the agarias working in the salt works will be considered as workman or not under the industrial dispute act, 1947.





  • Appellants are the lessees of the salt work and they have a license for manufacturing salt on the land. They put some salt to use for manufacturing chemical processes and they sell the remaining salt to outsiders.
  • The appellant who supervises the work and manufacturing of salt appointed a salt superintendent. They manufacture the salt from the rainwater, and hence, its operations are seasonal.
  • Then the whole area is divided into plots called pattas and they are in four parallel rows divided by the railway lines. Every agaria appointed by the appellant was allotted a patta and the same is allotted to them in subsequent years.
  • The appellant gave a particular amount for each of the pattas to meet the initial expenses. Then the agarias begin their work by leveling the lands and enclosing them and sinking wells in the lands.
  • Then the density of the water in the well is checked by the superintendent and then the brine is collected in the reservoirs and is preserved there until it acquired a certain amount of density and then it is spilled in the pattas until it changes into crystals.
  • Pans are prepared by the agarias according to certain standards which are examined by the superintendent and when salt crystals are formed, it was again examined by the superintendent, and then only it is allowed to be commenced.
  • After the collection of crystals, they are sent to the depots in the railway wagons for storage purpose then they are again tested there, and accordingly the agarias are paid at 0-5-6 per maund. The account of the agarias is prepared at the end of the season where the advances paid to them as well as the amount due from them to the grocery shop are considered and their accounts are settled accordingly.
  • The agarias have the freedom in the work and they have no restrictions regarding hours of work or leave or holidays. Also, their names were not entered in the muster rolls.
  • In 1950, a dispute emerged between agarias and appellants regarding the conditions under which the agarias will be manufacturing the salt. The Government of Saurashtra referred it to the industrial tribunal, Saurashtra.
  • According to the appellants, the agarias are independent contractors and not the workman under the industrial dispute act.
  • The tribunal held that the agarias are the workmen under the industrial dispute act and then the appellant appealed before the labor and industrial tribunal of India but failed because of the stay of proceedings in the industrial tribunal where the appeal was pending.
  • Then they moved to High Court for quashing the writ petition and filed for a stay of further proceedings in the industrial tribunal.
  • Then the high court agreed with the decision of the industrial tribunal that agarias are considered as workman in sec 2(s) of the act. Under Article 133(1) (c) of the constitution, a certificate is granted and then this appeal is referred to the Supreme Court.


Whether agarias appointed in the salt works will be considered as ‘workman’ under Section 2(s) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947?


  • JUSTICE BHAGWATI AND JUSTICE NATWARLAL H: The essential condition to be a workman under sec 2(s) of the act is that there must be a relationship between them similar to a relationship between employer and employee or master and servant. They apply a test to determine the existence of the relationship, which was established in the case of Short V. J. & W. Henderson Ltd. that the right of supervision and the amount of control by the employer will determine the existence and nature of the relationship.
  • Based on the material on records, they stated that there was control and supervision by the appellant from start to end so accordingly agarias will be considered ‘workman’.
  • They further gave an answer to the features raised by the appellant that a person can be a workman even if they do piece work but by the job which was established with Sadler VS Henlock. The court established that there is a difference between a workman and an independent contractor and if a person works personally, he will be considered as the workman and is eligible to take help from other persons and that will not affect his status in reference to the second feature raised by the appellants.


  • The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal with costs by stating that there is no reasonable ground to interfere with the decision of the industrial tribunal.
  • The court, by considering the precedents, established the difference between the workman and the independent contractor, and accordingly, it was interpreted by the court.
  • The agarias are considered as workman in section 2(s) of the industrial dispute act, 1947 by the court and it is justifiable according to the materials which are recorded by the court.


The conclusion drawn from this case is that there is a difference between the workman and the independent contractor. The difference is that the workman does the work assigned to him personally and the independent contractors appoint people to work for him to complete the work assigned to him. So the agarias are the workman for the purpose of sec 2(s) of the industrial dispute act, 1947 and the conditions of their work will be regularized according to the industrial dispute act, 1947.

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