The Lok Sabha passed the Essential Defence Services Bill, 2021 on Tuesday (3 August) after withdrawing the Essential Defence Services Ordinance, 2021. The bill seeks to empower the government to issue orders which would ban strikes, lockouts, and lay-offs in units engaged in essential defence services.
The government had promulgated the Essential Defence Services ordinance on 30 June 2021 after the failure of talks between the government and the recognised federations of ordnance factories. The employees of Ordnance Factory Board had expressed their intention to go on an indefinite strike from 26 July 2021.
Main Provisions Of The Bill
The bill defines essential defence services as any service, establishment or undertaking dealing with production of goods or equipment required for any purpose related to defence, involved with the armed forces or other establishments working with the armed forces or services whose suspension would affect the safety of the armed forces or allied establishments.
Additionally, the government may also notify services whose cessation would impact the production of defence equipment or operation or maintenance of any industrial establishment or unit engaged in production of goods or equipment required for any purpose connected with defence or repair or maintenance of products connected with defence.
The bill mainly empowers the government to issue orders prohibiting strikes, lock outs and lay-offs if the government is satisfied that such a strike, lockout or lay-off would affect public interest, the sovereignty and integrity of India, security of any state, public order, decency or morality. Each such order would be valid for a period of six months which is extendable to a period which is less than six months.
The bill defines strikes as cessation of work, go-slow, sit down, stay-in, token strike, sympathetic strike or mass casual leave, by a body of persons engaged in the essential defence services by a group of employees acting in cooperation or common understanding. It also includes refusal to work overtime when it is required for essential defence services and any other conduct that would disrupt essential services.
Moreover, it classifies essential defence services as public utility service under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. Under the act, in the case of public utility service, a six week notice is required before any strike or lock-out.
The bill provides for dismissal of employees who involve themselves in an illegal strike or instigate others to get involved in it, and such dismissal may not be subject to inquiry if the authority is satisfied that holding such an inquiry is not feasible.
It also penalises employees, who engage in an illegal strike, with a fine of Rs 10,000 or imprisonment of a year or both. The penalty for instigating a strike or providing financial incentives in support of a strike is Rs 15,000 or imprisonment of two years or both.
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