Lok Sabha, on August 3, passed the Essential Defence Services Bill-2021 which seeks to replace the ordinance issued in June 2021, allowing the central government to prohibit the workers of establishments that are engaged in “essential defence services” from going on strikes or the lockouts of such units.
What are Essential Defence Services?
The Essential Defence Services include any establishment or undertaking dealing with the production of goods or equipment required for defence-related purposes.
In addition to this, any establishment of the armed forces or connected with them or defence. These also include services that, if ceased, would affect the safety of the establishment engaged in such services or its employees.
The government may also declare any service as an essential defence service if its cessation would affect any of the following:
(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
What is Essential Defence Services Bill, 2021?
The Essential Defence Services Bill, 2021 says it is meant to provide for the maintenance of essential defence services “so as to secure the security of the nation and the life and property of public at large and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto”.
Essentially, this Bill is aimed at preventing the staff of the government-owned ordnance factories from going on a strike.
The Bill intones that “It is essential that an uninterrupted supply of ordnance items to the armed forces be maintained for the defence preparedness of the country and the ordnance factories continue to function without any disruptions.”
Therefore, it was felt necessary that the Government should have the power to meet the emergency created by such attempts and thereby ensure the maintenance of essential defence services in all establishments connected with defence, in the public interest or interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India or security of any State or decency or morality.
What is the Punishment for illegal lock-outs, lay-offs and strikes?
As per the Bill, the Government may prohibit strikes, lock-outs, and lay-offs in units engaged in essential defence services.
In the case of Illegal Lock-Outs and Lay-Offs:
Employers violating the prohibition order through illegal lock-outs or lay-offs will be punished with up to one-year imprisonment or a fine of Rs 10,000 or both.
For illegal strikes:
Persons commencing or participating in illegal strikes will also be punished with one-year imprisonment or Rs 10,000 fine or both.
In addition to that, persons who instigate, incite, or take actions to continue illegal strikes, or knowingly supplying money for such purposes will face imprisonment up to two years or Rs 15,000 fine, or both.
Such an employee will be culpable to disciplinary action including dismissal as per the terms and conditions of his service. In such cases, the concerned authority is further allowed to dismiss or remove the employee without any inquiry, if it is not reasonably practicable to hold such inquiry.
Who will be impacted by the Essential Defence Services Bill, 2021?
Earlier, the Government had announced the corporatisation of the Ordnance Factory Board which was otherwise directly under the Department of Defence Production and worked as an arm of the government.
Under the Corporatisation of Ordnance Factory Board, 41 factories across the country will be dissolved into seven new Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSU). The newly created entities will be 100% owned by the government.
The move is aimed at improving the efficiency and accountability of these factories.