Essentially, the Essential Defence Services Bill is aimed toward preventing the staff of the government-owned ordnance factories from occurring a strike. Around 70,000 people work with the 41 ordnance factories around the country.
- The Essential Defence Services Bill, 2021 was introduced in Lok Sabha by the Minister of Defence, Mr. Rajnath Singh, on July 22, 2021. The Bill seeks to exchange the Ordinance promulgated in June 2021. The Bill allows the central government to ban strikes, lock-outs, and lay-offs in units engaged in essential defence services. Key features of the Bill include:
- Essential defence services: Essential defence services include any service in: (i) any establishment or undertaking handling production of products or equipment required for defence related purposes, or (ii) any establishment of the soldiers or connected with them or defence. These also include services that, if ceased, would affect the security of the establishment engaged in such services or its employees. additionally , the govt may declare any service as an important defence service if its cessation would affect the: (i) production of defence equipment or goods, (ii) operation or maintenance of industrial establishments or units engaged in such production, or (iii) repair or maintenance of products connected with defence.
- Public utility service: The Bill amends the industrial Disputes Act, 1947 to include essential defence services under utility services. Under the Act, just in case of public utility services, a six-week notice must be given before: (i) persons employed in such services continue strike in breach of contract or (ii) employers carrying on such services do lock-outs.
- Strikes: Under the Bill, strike is defined as cessation of work by a body of persons acting together. It includes: (i) mass casual leave, (ii) coordinated refusal of any number of persons to still work or accept employment, (iii) refusal to work overtime, where such work is important for maintenance of essential defence services, and (iv) the other conduct which results in, or is likely to result in, disruption of work in essential defence services.
- Prohibition on strikes, lock-outs, and lay-offs: Under the Bill, the central government may prohibit strikes, lock-outs, and lay-offs in units engaged in essential defence services. the govt may issue such order if necessary within the interest of: (i) sovereignty and integrity of India, (ii) security of any state, (iii) public order, (iv) public, (v) decency, or (vi) morality. The prohibition order will remain in force for 6 months, and should be extended by another six months.
Strikes and lock-outs that are declared after the difficulty of the prohibition order, or had commenced before the prohibition order was issued are going to be illegal. The prohibition won’t apply to lay-offs made because of power shortage or natural calamity, or lay-offs of temporary or casual workmen.
- Punishment for illegal lock-outs and lay-offs: Employers violating the prohibition order through illegal lock-outs or lay-offs are going to be punished with up to at least one year imprisonment or Rs 10,000 fine, or both.
- Punishment for illegal strikes: Persons commencing or participating in illegal strikes are going to be punished with up to at least one year imprisonment or Rs 10,000 fine, or both. Persons instigating, inciting, or taking actions to continue illegal strikes, or knowingly supplying money for such purposes, are going to be punished with up to 2 years imprisonment or Rs 15,000 fine, or both. Further, such an employee are going to be liable to disciplinary action including dismissal as per the terms and conditions of his service. In such cases, the concerned authority is allowed to dismiss or remove the worker with none inquiry, if it’s not reasonably practicable to carry such inquiry.
- All offences punishable under the Bill are going to be cognisable and non-bailable.