The Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA):
- The Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) was enacted in 1968 by the Parliament of India.
- It aims to maintain certain essential services that are necessary for the normal life of the community.
- Any service with respect to which the Parliament has power to make laws or the government feels that its discontinuation would affect the maintenance of supplies and services necessary for sustaining life is considered an essential service.
- It extends to the whole of India provided that it shall not apply to the State of Jammu and Kashmir except to the extent to which the provisions of this Act relate to Union employees.
- The Act includes a long list of “essential services” ranging from post and telegraph, railway, airport and port operations etc, and it prohibits the key employees in these services from striking.
- The employees can’t even refuse to work overtime if their work is considered necessary for the maintenance of any of the essential services.
- The Act allows states to choose the essential services on which to enforce ESMA.
- It gives police the right to arrest, without a warrant, anybody violating the Act’s provisions.
- Any person who instigates the strike or commences a strike or otherwise takes part in any such strike shall be punishable with imprisonment or financial penalty or both.
- The interpretation of “essential services” varies from state to state.
- Legal mechanisms exist for challenging a decision taken under the terms of this Act if a dispute arises.
What is the Essential Commodity Act?
- The Essential Commodity Act empowers the government to control production, supply and distribution of certain commodities.
- The act is aimed at maintaining or increasing supplies and for securing the equitable distribution and fair price availability of these commodities.
- The act is also intended to work against unethical trade practices like hoarding and black-marketing.