Essential Defence Services Bill, 2021

News: Recently, the government introduced the Essential Defence Services Bill, 2021 in Lok Sabha. It seeks to replace the ordinance issued in June 2021 and prohibits any agitation and strike by anyone engaged in the essential defence services.

Details:

  • Essential Defence Service includes any service in any establishment or undertaking dealing with production of goods or equipment required for defence related purposes or any establishment of the armed forces or connected with them or defence. It also includes services that, if ceased, would affect the safety of the establishment engaged in such services or its employees.
  • In addition, the government may declare any service as an essential defence service if its cessation would affect the:
    • Production of defence equipment or goods.
    • Operation or maintenance of industrial establishments or units engaged in such production.
    • Repair or maintenance of products connected with defence.
  • Strike is defined as cessation of work by a body of persons acting together, which includes; Mass casual leave, Coordinated refusal of any number of persons to continue to work or accept employment, Refusal to work overtime, where such work is necessary for maintenance of essential defence services, Any other conduct which results in, or is likely to result in, disruption of work in essential defence services.
  • Government may prohibit strikes, lock-outs, and lay-offs in units engaged in essential defence services.
  • It may issue such an order if necessary in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, security of any state, public order, public, decency and morality.

Penal provisions:

  • Employers violating the prohibition order through illegal lock-outs or lay-offs will be punished with up to one year imprisonment or Rs 10,000 fine, or both.
  • Persons commencing or participating in illegal strikes – Up to 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- Up to two years imprisonment or Rs 15,000 fine, or both.
  • Such an employee will 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 employee without any inquiry, if it is not reasonably practicable to hold such inquiry.
  • All offences punishable will be cognisable and non-bailable. Cognisable offences are those that require an immediate arrest.
  • The bill will amend the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 to include essential defence services under public utility services. 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.